Idaho State wraps-up Big Sky Conference regular season championship, as Eastern can finish anywhere from second to fifth based on the outcome of next Saturday's rematch in Pocatello
In a showdown with the Big Sky Conference regular season title on the line, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team fell to Idaho State 63-50 Saturday (Feb. 25) on Senior Day at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern's third-straight loss helped the Bengals wrap-up the regular season title and host status for the Big Sky Conference Tournament on March 8-10. The Eagles, who can still finish as high as second and as low as fifth in the league standings, fell to 16-12 overall, and 10-5 in Big Sky play. Idaho State is now 21-7 and 13-2 in the league, and hosts Eastern in the regular season finale for both teams next Saturday (March 3) in Pocatello.
"We've got to do a better job of handling adversity," said Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller. "When things don't go well on the offensive end, we have to be better on the defensive end -- not worse. I saw a lot of that today. We have to just play through everything. Especially the second half, we just didn't handle the pressure well in certain situations."
Eastern got off to a hot start, using a 7-0 run to start the game and take control early, but Idaho State quickly recovered with seven points of its own.
The Eagles made just 31 percent of its shots from the field – one game after a 30-percent outing -- and connected on only 3-of-15 3-point field goals. Ryan led EWU in scoring with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Cooper finished 4-of-17, and finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.
"Idaho State did what Portland State did, and just shut Ryan down," said Schuller. "In transition, they were looking to double-team her, but we need to take advantage of that. It means someone else is open. We're not taking advantage of those situations. For Ryan, she needs to find other ways to score, whether it's an offensive rebound, steals or free throws. I think it's one of those things where if she's not scoring, someone else needs to step up and do it for us."
The Eagles went into halftime down by just two points, 27-25, but Idaho State's Ashleigh Vella scored all 21 of her points in the second half after going scoreless in the first. She scored all 11 points in an 11-2 ISU run in the second half that gave the Bengals a double-digit lead.
"Vella hit a couple a big shots for them," said Schuller. "There were a couple of times where we thought we had a chance to get back in it, but then she would strike again. I think Idaho State did a great job of moving the ball and making the extra pass to find that open teammate. They picked us apart."
Eastern turned the ball over 20 times and were outscored 22-10 in the paint. The Eagle bench contributed just ten points in the contest.
EWU can clinch the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament with a win at Idaho State next Saturday (Mar. 3) at Reed Gym in Pocatello, Idaho. However, the Eagles can finish as low as fifth in the conference with a loss, depending also on the results of other league games.
"From here on out, everything is about us -- what we're going to do and if we're going to come together or not," said Schuller. "We're still playing for a lot, and not just seeding or placement in the tournament. You want to be playing well going into the postseason. We have a week to get ourselves back on track."