Furious Comeback Falls Short As Eagles Drop Nonconference Tilt To Visiting SMU

Cheney, Wash. – Senior Laura Hughes and sophomore Hayley Hodgins poured in 19 points apiece but it was not enough as the Eastern Washington women's basketball team fell to visiting SMU, 75-70, Saturday, Nov. 16, in a nonconference game at Reese Court.

"This was another tough one," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "Overall, though, I was pleased with a lot of things. I told the team after the game that I believe we're going to be a really good team, but we're just not quite there yet. We have the pieces and place and can really do a lot of things well, and we'll continue to work on what we're not great at. Obviously, the rebounding margin hurt us tonight, and as a group we can do better in that area.

"I thought we shot it well again, and I can live with 16 turnovers because most come from playing fast, which is our goal. I also thought we did some good things offensively, but we had a couple of key breakdowns that lead to offensive boards and points for them. We'll get back in the gym and continue to improve."

The Eagles made 11 three-pointers on the day, just three shy of the program record. Hodgins led the team with five triples, shooting a blistering 5-of-9 from long range.

Hughes shot a near-perfect 8-of-10 from the field, adding five boards to her stat line. Junior Kylie Huerta chipped in 10 points, connecting on a pair of threes. She also recorded six assists.

Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter tied Huerta with six helpers, adding six points and five rebounds to her tally.

Down by three early, Eastern (0-2) took its first lead, 8-6, on a pair of free throws from Hughes with 16:28 on the clock. SMU (3-0) answered to regain a three-point advantage, 13-10, punctuated by a layup from Akil Simpson. Hodgins promptly tied the score on a three-pointer at the 13:32 mark, igniting an 11-2 run spanning the next five minutes that put the Eagles up, 24-15, with 8:15 remaining in the half.

The Mustangs countered with a run of their own, reeling off 14 of the next 19 points to tie the score at 29-all with 1:12 left on the clock. After a jumper from Krystal Johnson put the visitors up two, 31-29, Huerta found an open Hodgins on Eastern's next possession, who buried a triple as the buzzer sounded, giving the Eagles a one-point advantage heading into the locker room.

Eastern made six three-pointers in the first half, shooting 6-of-12 from long range during the first 20 minutes.

Buckets from Hughes and Nelson extended EWU's lead to five, 37-32 out of the break, but the Mustangs battled back to tie the score at 43-43 with 16:53 on the clock. Nelson converted a jumper on the Eagles' ensuing possession, but a free throw and a jumper from Keena Mays put SMU ahead, 46-45, at the 15:05 mark. The visitors expanded their lead to seven on a jumper from Destynee Hives-McCray with 11:17 on the clock before taking their largest lead of the night, 60-52, with a little over eight minutes to play.

The Eagles fought to get back in the game over the next four minutes as back-to-back layups from Hughes punctuated a run that brought EWU to within two, 65-63, at the 3:51 mark. SMU answered to go back up five, 68-63, but Hughes provided the counterpunch for Eastern, sinking a layup off a pass from Ashenfelter with 1:41 remaining. Simpson made a layup on the Mustangs' ensuing trip down the court, but a free throw from Hughes kept EWU within striking distance, down three with 36 seconds left.

SMU made 1-of-2 free throws on its next possession, but Hodgins missed a three-pointer and the Eagles were forced to foul with 18 ticks remaining. Kiara Perry made her first free throw before missing the second, but Eastern was unable to convert as SMU again came up with a big defensive rebound. Perry made two free throws after the foul, putting the Mustangs ahead by seven, 75-68, with five seconds on the clock. Huerta made a fallaway jumper with no time on the clock, resulting in the final margin.

Simpson paced the Mustangs with 16 points while Mays added 15. She nearly missed out on a triple-double, finishing with eight rebounds and eight assists. 

SMU outrebounded the Eagles, 48-28, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds. The Mustangs converted 19 EWU turnovers in 22 points while Eastern managed just 14 points off 16 SMU miscues.

The Eagles are back on the court Wednesday, Nov. 20, when they play at WCC foe and local rival No. 25 Gonzaga. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.

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