Cheney, Wash. – The Eastern Washington women's basketball team saw its seven-game home winning streak come to an end as visiting North Dakota scored the last seven points of the game to steal a 61-57 win Saturday, Mar. 1, in a Big Sky contest at Reese Court.
Eastern (15-12, 11-7 Big Sky) committed five of its 12 turnovers in the final four minutes of the game as North Dakota (20-8, 15-4 BSC) erased a three-point deficit to clinch a share of the Big Sky title.
Redshirt sophomore Hayley Hodgins led EWU with 14 points, adding five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Junior Lexie Nelson added 12 points while senior Laura Hughes chipped in 10 points and five rebounds in her final appearance at Reese Court. Fellow senior Aubrey Ashenfelter finished with four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in her final game in Cheney.
Freshman Jade Redmon led all players with five assists, committing just one turnover in 31 minutes.
Junior Melissa Williams added four points and six rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench.
UND was hot early, making nine of its first 14 shots over the opening 11 minutes to take a 22-7 advantage. Eastern, on the other hand, could not buy a bucket, going 2-of-17 from the field to start the game.
"I thought the first 12 minutes were the difference," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "You can't spot a conference championship team the lead we gave them to start the game. We weren't focused enough to knock shots down. It's hard to get in a hole like that against a quality basketball team."
After a media timeout at the 7:54 mark, the Eagles promptly went on a 7-0 run over the next minute to cut UND's lead in half, 22-14. After a lay-up from Emily Evers momentarily stopped EWU's onslaught, Eastern got a lay-up from Hodgins and a three-pointer from freshman Bethany Montgomery to pull to within five, 24-19, with 4:35 left in the half.
A pair of free throws from Williams brought EWU to within two, 29-27, with 10 seconds on the clock but North Dakota's Makailah Dyer made a driving lay-up as the buzzer sounded to spot North Dakota a four-point advantage at the break.
Eastern shot just 29.6 percent in the first half while UND connected at a 46.4-percent clip over the opening 20 minutes.
The Eagles took their first lead since early in the first half on a three-pointer from Nelson just two minutes into the second half. North Dakota answered with a 10-0 run over the ensuing four minutes to take a nine-point lead, 41-32, with 13:59 on the clock.
EWU slowly cut into the visitors' lead over the next six minutes before a lay-up from Hughes put the Eagles back on top, 53-52, at the 6:01 mark. North Dakota regained the lead on a pair of free throws from Leah Szabla before buckets from Hodgins and Hughes gave Eastern a three-point advantage with 3:22 remaining.
The Eagles would not score again, however, as North Dakota finished the game on a 7-0 run to steal a share of the league title.
North Dakota owned a seven-point advantage at the foul line, making 15-of-24 free throws while Eastern finished a perfect 8-of-8. The Eagles did not take a foul shot in the second half while UND attempted 20 free throws in the second stanza.
"The free throw differential in the second half is tough to swallow," Schuller added. "But our execution down the stretch was poor. We took such good care of the ball the entire second half, then in the last three minutes we turn it over five times."
EWU shot 38.2 percent from the field after connecting at a 29.6-percent clip in the first half. North Dakota had a field goal percentage of 44.7 percent and made 4-of-9 three-pointers.
UND outrebounded Eastern, 37-27, but managed just 13 second chance points on 16 offensive rebound. The Eagles pulled down 13 offensive boards that they turned into 12 second chance points.
Eastern forced North Dakota into 18 turnovers, scoring 23 points off the visitors' miscues. EWU committed 12 turnovers, but UND managed just eight points off the Eagles' errors.
Madi Buck led North Dakota with 16 points while Mia Loyd and Emily Evers both finished with double-doubles.
The Eagles wrap up their regular season with a pair of road games next week. EWU opens its week at Idaho State on Thursday, Mar. 6, at 6 p.m.