Ojeda leads Eastern with career-high 20 points, while Coop notches fourth double-double of season
It doesn't happen too often in the Big Sky Conference, but the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team took care of business, winning back-to-back games on the road.
Two days after taking down Weber State in Ogden, the Eagles moved onto Flagstaff, where they defeated Northern Arizona, 74-56, on Saturday (Jan. 7) at the Rolle Activity Center.
Eastern will now return to Cheney with a winning record of 9-8 and a solid 3-1 start to the Big Sky season. The Lumberjacks fall to 5-11 on the year and 0-4 in league play.
"We lost a home game last week to Montana, so we knew we had to work hard to get it back on the road," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "This was a long trip, but our players showed a great deal of maturity in getting the job done. They studied the scout, executed the game plan and played hard. I am really proud of our team for being road warriors."
A relentless pressure defense, coupled with hot shooting in the second half is what enabled the Eags to roll to the 18-point victory on Thursday. Northern Arizona committed 31 turnovers in the game - 20 in the first half alone, while EWU had a season-high 24 assists.
In the first 11 minutes of the game, Eastern made just 4-of-20 shots, which allowed NAU to keep it close for awhile. But at the 8:34 mark, with the scored tied at 13, EWU went on a inspiring run. The Eagles scored 22 of the next 26 points to open up a 33-15 advantage with just under two minutes remaining in the half.
The Lumberjacks managed to hit two more baskets before the buzzer - one of which was from long range - but Eastern still enjoyed a comfortable 35-20 lead at the half.
If there was one blemish in Eastern's first-half box score, it was a shooting percentage of 37.1. But EWU certainly made up for it in the second, as it converted a sizzling 17-of-29 shots from the field. The Eagles tallied 13 assists with only eight turnovers in the second period. Senior point guard Chene Cooper had seven of those 13, while six other players had at least one.
"I was really pleased to see us finish with 24 assists and 18 turnovers," said Schuller. "Anytime you can be positive in that category, it shows you are really sharing the ball well. We did a great job of making that extra pass to get good shots tonight."
Eastern led by as many as 30 points midway through the second half, but after Schuller took out her starters, Northern Arizona was able to cut the deficit slightly. The Lumberjacks went on an 11-2 run to make it 63-42 with seven minutes remaining. NAU managed to get it under 20 by the three-minute mark, but Eastern did enough to stay in complete control of the game.
Junior center Carrie Ojeda had a career-night for EWU, as she scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor. She was also a perfect 4-of-4 from the line, and had five rebounds, two blocks, two steals and one assist.
"Our post players had a major impact tonight," complimented Schuller. "They flew around and made a lot of things happen. Carrie was aggressive and did a great job finishing shots. It was a good effort from that crew all-around."
Cooper finished with 11 assists and 10 points for her fourth double-double of the year. The 5-foot-0 guard also had six steals to add to her EWU record-holding career total, now at 231.
Senior Brianne Ryan had 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Eagles, as she was able to extend her double-digit scoring streak to 17 in a row - the longest active streak in the Big Sky.
For the Lumberjacks, junior Amy Patton scored more than half of her team's points, as she finished with a game-high 27 on an 11-of-12 effort from the floor.
"Patton had a huge night, but we did a pretty good job of limiting everyone else on the court," said Schuller. "We made them hurry up and play faster than they're used to. Forcing 31 turnovers proves you're working pretty hard on the defensive end."
Eastern will have a pair of home games in the week ahead, starting with Sac State on Thursday (Jan. 12). Tipoff from Reese Court is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.