Despite four players in double figures, Eastern suffers from communication breakdowns in first loss to Lumberjacks since 2009
The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team could not find a way to slow down the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona, who had their best offensive performance of the season to defeat the Eagles, 83-68, on Thursday (Jan. 10) at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Sophomore Melissa Williams and redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins both had career-nights for EWU, but it was simply not enough, as the Eagles fall to 7-7 on the year and 3-2 in Big Sky Conference action.
The Lumberjacks snapped a six-game losing streak against EWU, as they improve to 3-10 overall and 2-2 in league play.
“I was really disappointed with our effort tonight on both ends of the floor,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller, who was denied her 150th win at Eastern for the second game in a row. Schuller is 149-187 in her 12 years as a head coach.
“Coming off a loss where we didn’t play great, you’d expect to see this team come out with some fight. You’d expect them to play hard and play with some heart. But I don’t think we did that, and it’s really disappointing, because that is just not who we are.”
Playing its first game since 2010 in the newly-renovated Walkup Skydome, the Lumberjacks had no trouble adjusting to the new court, as they shot a season-high 51.7 percent from the field against EWU, and 63 percent in the second half. NAU made 8-of-15 from 3-point land, including a near flawless 5-of-7 effort in the second period.
“Give Northern Arizona credit for shooting the heck out of it," said Schuller. "But instead of showing any kind of fight when things got tough, we just kept lolling along thinking something magical was going to happen. We didn’t guard the way we are capable of guarding, we absolutely did not communicate and talk, and we just let them do whatever they wanted against us.”
Eastern made 15-of-37 shots in the first half, and had earned a 14-4 advantage in second-chance points. The Eags also forced eight NAU turnovers, but despite a 36-33 edge at halftime, EWU saw the game quickly slip away within the opening minutes of the second half.
Coming out of the locker room, NAU converted its first seven attempts from the field, three of which came from beyond the arc. The deflating 17-6 run by the Lumberjacks in the first six minutes of the second period seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game.
“I never felt like we had any kind flow or energy going all night,” said Schuller. “But in the second half, it just bit us in the butt because they [Northern Arizona] knocked down everything they shot.”
Eastern did have four players reach double figures, including Hodgins, who paced the team with a career-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor. She also contributed three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Williams notched her first-career double-double with a career-high 13 points and 11 rebounds. She also led the team in assists with four.
Sophomore Lexie Nelson added 15 points, while junior Chenise Pakootas chipped in 10 to go along with a career-high eight rebounds.
“We have to really examine ourselves and figure some things out because we play another very good team in 48 hours,” said Schuller. “And one thing is for sure, we have to find some leadership. We have team captains and point guards who are all players in leadership roles. They are great kids and they work hard, but in terms of being an actual leader - that vocal presence on the court - we are not seeing what we need. That’s where our communication has to start.”
Eastern will play at Sacramento State on Saturday (Jan. 12) at 2:05 p.m. The Hornets celebrated an 81-77 win over Portland State in their Thursday night matchup, as they now improve to 7-6 on the year and 2-1 in Big Sky play.