Led by a career-high 22 points from redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins and a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds for senior Carrie Ojeda, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team knocked off the Vikings of Portland State on their home floor, 68-56.
The win Monday (Jan. 21) at the Peter W. Stott Center in Portland, Ore., was Eastern’s third-straight in Big Sky Conference play, as the Eagles are now in sole possession of third place in the league standings. Eastern (10-8, 6-3 Big Sky) is a 1/2 behind Montana (6-2) and 1 1/2 games behind conference-leading Montana State (7-1). Eastern will close out the first half of its 20-game Big Sky slate next Saturday (Jan. 26) with a home game against league newcomer Southern Utah at 2:05 p.m. at Reese Court.
Unlike the blowout win Eastern enjoyed in its last outing against Northern Colorado, there was no clear favorite for most of Monday's contest in the Rose City. There were a total of seven ties and 12 lead changes in the game, although most of those happened in the first half.
After a brief 5-0 scoring run by the Eagles midway through the first period, the Vikings found a surge of their own, as they scored 10 unanswered points to take a 28-22 lead with less than five minutes on the clock.
But following a timeout called by EWU head coach Wendy Schuller, the Eagles went on 12-2 run to close out the half, and enjoyed a 34-30 edge heading into the locker room.
The Vikings scored the first five points of the second period though to reclaim the lead, but EWU continued to answer, scoring six of the next seven points.
Following a made field goal by Ojeda that put Eastern up by two (28-26) at the 16:14-mark of the second half, EWU never relinquished the lead the rest of the way. The Eags continued to slowly build its cushion, with the final margin of 12 being Eastern’s largest lead of the game.
The Eags did not shoot dramatically better than PSU, finishing the game at 39.1 percent from the field, compared to 38.9 for the Vikings. EWU was also out-rebounded 43-36, but where Eastern excelled was in the turnover column.
Portland State committed 22 turnovers in the game, which the Eagles converted into 27 points on the other end. Eastern had only 11 miscues - its fewest in a game all season.
“I thought things looked a little stagnant in the first half, so I wanted to find some ways to infuse some energy into us in the second half,” said Schuller. “We started to press a little bit and push the tempo offensively, and that seemed to work for us. We were able to force more turnovers and covert them into fast-break baskets.”
For the third game in a row, Hodgins posted a new career high, as she led EWU with 22 tallies. The redshirt-freshman, who was just named Big Sky Player of the Week, hit 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc and was a perfect 4-of-4 at the free throw line. This all coming after a 17-point effort against UNC, when she converted all seven of her attempts from the field, including 3-of-3 from long range.
“It’s a lot of fun to see players grow up and blossom into what you always believed they could be,” said Schuller. “I think Hayley has done so well because she’s not forcing anything and we’re not forcing it with play calls. She is just getting everything within the scope of what we do. She has gained a lot of confidence and her teammates have tremendous confidence in her, so they are starting to look for her and create things for her. And Hayley is a player who has definitely earned it.”
Ojeda posted her fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while also adding two steals, one block and one assist. Interestingly, Ojeda has registered a double-double in each of the last four regular-season meetings with Portland State. The 6-1 center has 11 total in her career.
Juniors Chenise Pakootas and Laura Hughes, and sophomore Kylie Huerta each chipped in eight points apiece for EWU, while Huerta also had six assists and a career-high five steals.
Pakootas hit both of her attempts from 3-point land, and also had two assists.
For the second game in a row, EWU recorded a better field goal percentage from three (41.2) than its overall field goal percentage for the game (39.1).
Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter added six points, five rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks for the Eags.
With a win in the first basketball meeting of the year, Eastern takes over a slight lead in the Dam Cup standings, now leading the 2012-13 race, 6-5. The EWU football team earned four points earlier this year with its 41-34 victory, but PSU garnered five points with a win in soccer and a sweep of the regular-season series in volleyball. With another women's basketball matchup in store and two on the men's side, six more points will be awarded for a total of 17. Thus, the first team to nine will win this year's Dam Cup.