Greeley, Colo. – Big plays from unlikely sources saw the Eastern Washington women's basketball team come from behind to defeat host Northern Colorado, 52-51, Saturday, Feb. 2, in a Big Sky contest at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
Trailing until the dying minutes of the second half, Eastern (9-10, 5-5 Big Sky) took a two-point lead on a lay-up from freshman Jade Redmon with 2:55 on the clock. Northern Colorado (11-9, 5-6 BSC) tied the score with a bucket on its next trip down the court but junior Melissa Williams converted inside at the 1:57 mark to put the Eagles back on top.
The Bears' Stephanie Lee went to the free throw line with 59 ticks left with a chance to the tie the score, knocking down her first free throw before the second was disallowed due to a lane violation. Down by one, UNC was forced to foul, putting EWU's best free throw shooter, junior Lexie Nelson, on the line with 19 seconds remaining.
Nelson missed the front end of the 1-and-1 opportunity, giving Northern Colorado the game's final possession. Molly Duehn's three-pointer was off the mark and Williams corralled the rebound for the Eagles only to be tied up by Kim Lockridge, giving possession to the Bears one last time. With two seconds left, Lockridge received the inbounds pass but her contested shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
The win was Eastern's first away from Reese Court this season.
"Down the stretch, I thought we communicated and showed a lot of determination defensively," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We rebounded a lot better today and we found a way to put the ball in the basket when it mattered."
Senior Laura Hughes and sophomore Hayley Hodgins scored 12 points apiece to lead the Eagles while Nelson and senior Aubrey Ashenfelter each chipped in nine points.
Williams pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with six points. Redmon's bucket with three minutes remaining was her only field goal of the game but she finished with a season-high seven assists to go along with five rebounds.
After getting outrebounded by 27 at North Dakota on Thursday, Eastern won the rebounding battle, 33-27, over the Bears, giving up just five offensive rebounds while pulling down 14 offensive boards. EWU tallied 16 second chance points to UNC's four.
"I'm very proud of our team to come up with this win after a tough road swing," Schuller continued. "We wanted to come together and get a win and not think about fatigue or any of that. I was proud of our ability to come out and fight and I thought we played extremely hard."
Northern Colorado's changing defenses kept Eastern out of a rhythm early as the Eagles quickly found themselves down five, 9-4, after the first seven minutes. Hodgins reeled off four straight points to bring EWU to within one, 9-8, but the hosts answered with a 5-0 run to take a six-point edge with 9:43 on the clock.
Freshman Bethany Montgomery and Hughes both converted lay-ups to cut UNC's lead to two, 14-12, forcing the Bears to call timeout at the 9:02 mark. Lindsay Mallon scored out of the timeout for Northern Colorado, but a triple from Nelson and another bucket inside from Hughes gave Eastern its first lead of the game, 17-16, with 6:22 on the clock.
The hosts worked to regain the lead, using a 7-2 run to go back up four, 23-19, at the 3:47 mark. Two free throws from Hodgins momentarily tied the score at 23-23 but Lockridge's put-back gave UNC a 25-23 edge at the half.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Nelson evened things at 29-29 early in the second half, but Eastern was never able to get over the edge as the Bears had an answer for every Eagle bucket.
Down five, 48-43, with seven minutes left, Hodgins knocked down a triple before Williams swished home a pair of free throws, tying the score at 48-48. Redmon's lay-up gave EWU its first lead in the second half, then the Eagles held on down the stretch to secure the win.
The Eagles shot just 32.7 percent for the game, but made seven three pointes and knocked down 11 of 13 free throws. Northern Colorado connected at a 48.8-percent clip from the floor but made just three of 15 three-pointers.
Eastern is back at home next weekend with a pair of Big Sky tilts against the Montana schools. The Eagles open the week versus Montana State on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 6 p.m.