January 27, 2011

Vikings Upend Eastern, 77-70

Eagles suffer second road loss of BSC season after struggling to find hoop in second half

It was a tale of two halves for the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team on Thursday night (Jan. 29) at the Stott Center in Portland, Ore. The Eagles shot 49 percent from the field in the first half to earn a 12-point advantage at the break, but then made only 8-of-35 shots in the second (.229), resulting in a narrow 77-70 loss at the hands of Big Sky foe Portland State.

With the win, Portland State secured the school's first ever Dam Cup, as the Vikings earned a 9-8 edge in points over Eastern for the 2010-11 seasons. The Dam Cup is a new rivalry series between the two schools that include five sports of football, women's soccer, volleyball and men's and women's basketball.

Eastern was firing on all cylinders for the first 20 minutes of the Thursday's contest, as the team hit 17-of-35 shots and earned an 18-10 advantage in rebounds. The Eagles also forced 10 Portland State turnovers, which they converted into 15 points. Eastern had earned a 42-30 lead before heading into the locker room.

"It felt like we picked up right where we left off last Saturday against Sac State,"said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller of the team's performance in the first period. "We were getting up and down, and making things happen. Our effort on the defensive end was great - we were sticking to the game plan we had worked on all week."

But unfortunately, the fire Eastern possessed in the first was extinguished during the 15-minute halftime break. The Eagles missed four-consecutive shots from the field to open the second period. Junior Brianne Ryan drained a three pointer at the 18:40 mark, but that would be the last basket Eastern would score for more than five minutes. Portland State went on a 15-point run, ignited by a three-point field goal by junior guard Eryn Jones, who is the league's most efficient long range shooter.

Now down by five, Ryan finally ended the drought with two free throws at the 13:36 mark. The teams then traded baskets for the next eight minutes until Portland State managed to extend its lead to nine at 67-58, which marked PSU's largest lead of the night. The Eags continued to fight, and pulled within three (70-67) with less than an minute and half to go, but a couple of missed shots down the stretch sealed the 77-70 upset for PSU. In total, the Vikings out-scored Eastern 47-28 in the second half.

"Portland State deserves credit," said Schuller. "They stepped up their level of intensity, and was really the more aggressive team on both ends of the floor. We got called for some early fouls, and then probably became more passive than we needed to."

"We were not pretty in the second half, but I have to give the players credit for fighting till the end. Sometimes, it is just to no avail."

For the sixth time in the last seven games, Ryan led the Eagles in scoring with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field. The Lynden, Wash., native also added four assists and three rebounds.

Sophomore Carrie Ojeda registered her first-career double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Ojeda had three offensive rebounds, one block, two made free throws and jumper in the final five minutes, which helped give Eastern one final surge at the end of the game.

"Carrie's effort was great. She was flying around and going hard to the glass. When she rebounds like that, she really helps us a lot as a player."

Senior Julie Piper was also relentless on the glass, grabbing 11 boards, eight of which were on the offensive end. Piper also chipped in nine points, and had one block and a steal.

Senior Tatjana Sparavalo finished with 13 points in just 16 minutes on the floor.

PSU's sophomore guard Courtney VanBrocklin led all players in the game with 21 points, seven of which came from the free throw line, including five in the final two minutes. Jones finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The Eagles, now 8-10 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky, will stay on the road to face Idaho State in its next contest on Saturday (Jan. 29). Tipoff from Reed Gymnasium is scheduled for 1 p.m. Pacific time.

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