Eagles rally back from 17-point deficit in second half, but can't find a way to win against sharp-shooting Bengals
Playing on the road for the fifth time in the last six games, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team could not come up with a win on Saturday (Jan. 29) in Pocatello, Idaho. The Eagles fell to Idaho State, 75-69, which marked the team's eighth-straight loss at Reed Gymnasium.
Eastern certainly made it exciting for the fans though, as the game was not completely decided until the final seconds ticked off the clock. Idaho State had earned a 17-point lead on EWU at the 11:15 mark in the second half, but Eastern did all it could to make sure the Bengals did not walk away with any easy Big Sky win.
Down 54-37, junior point guard Chene Cooper hit back-to-back field goals to quickly cut the deficit to 12. The two teams then traded baskets for the next few minutes, until finally, EWU closed the gap to single digits at 59-50 thanks to a three pointer by junior Brianne Ryan.
Eastern was able to pull within four points on five different occasions in the final 4:30, but the Bengals held steady with clutch free throws and a few devastating drives to the hoop. The Bengals went to the line just four times total in the second half, but all eight of those attempts came in the final two minutes. Cooper hit one of her three treys of the game with 24 seconds remaining, which brought the score to 72-69, but ISU then converted 3-of-4 free throws to solidify its 12th-straight victory at home.
"We played a very good Idaho State team today," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "They executed offensively and played good team basketball. They were certainly deserving of the win."
The rebounds, turnovers, three pointers and fouls were relatively even in the contest, but the one statistic that gave ISU the edge was its fierce field goal percentage. The Bengals hit 28-of-52 shots to finish with the second-best field goal percentage in all Big Sky games played this season at 53.8.
"ISU hit some tough shots," said Schuller. "But they also did things that disrupted our defense, and we gave up too many easy shots as a result."
After making only 9-of-30 shots in the first half, Eastern dramatically improved its percentage in the second, finishing the game at .418. The Eagles had only eight assists in the game though, compared to 19 for the Bengals. ISU also had a 33-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Three Eagles scored in double digits, including Cooper who led the team with 18 tallies. She was 7-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-6 from long range. She also had three assists and two steals.
Senior Tatjana Sparavalo and Ryan both finished with 17 points, while Sparavalo pulled down and team-leading seven rebounds.
The Eagles did hold the league's leading scorer, Chelsea Pickering, to just six points total in the contest, but the Bengals found plenty of offense in other ways. Most notably, from their freshman forward Ashleigh Vella, who poured in a game-high 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
Eastern is now tied with three other teams in the league with a 4-3 Big Sky record, the Bengals being one of them. Northern Colorado, who visits Cheney on Thursday (Feb. 3), is leading the conference at 7-1, while Montana State is just one game behind at 6-1.
Eastern will tipoff against the Bears at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday. The team will then have a rematch with ISU on Saturday (Feb. 5) when the Bengals come to Reese Court for an afternoon game that tips off at 2:05 p.m.