Photo by: Dylan Paulus
After the basketball reached its apex and was tipped off to start the EWU women’s game vs. Northern Colorado on Jan. 19 at Reese Court, UNC guard D’Shara Strange grabbed it and streaked toward the basket. There she converted an uncontested layup and put the Bears up 2-0 just four seconds into the contest.
It was the only lead UNC held the entire game.
A torrent of made baskets by the Eagles followed for the rest of the first half, with EWU shooting 15-23 in the first 20 minutes to take an insurmountable 42-17 halftime lead, their biggest lead at the half this year. EWU went on to win 63-38, improving to 9-8 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference, moving into third place behind Montana and Montana State. Northern Colorado dropped to 7-9 total and 4-3 in conference.
The EWU women were led by the can’t-miss shooting of redshirt freshman Hayley Hodgins who topped all scorers with a career-high 17 points in her first start as an Eagle. She shot a perfect 7-7 from the field including 3-3 from three, scoring in double figures for the fourth consecutive game.
“The last four games I’ve just been sticking to what I do well which is shooting,” Hodgins said. “Coach [Schuller] has been saying, ‘Don’t hesitate, that’s your shot.’ I just shot it and it went in—that’s always good.” Hodgins began the season scoring just 3.2 points per contest in her first 12 games, but has averaged 14.8 per game in her recent four-game hot streak.
Defensively, EWU did not allow a made three-point field goal. The Bears were a staggering 0-22 from behind the arc, while the Eagles shot a season-best 56.3% from three-point land, converting on nine of their 16 3-pointers. “That’s just them having a rough night,” Schuller said. “Believe me, I get that, because Northern Colorado’s a really good basketball team and this doesn’t change my opinion of that at all.”
Schuller added, “They had a rough night, we had a good night, and that happens sometimes in the game. I’m happy that we were on that end of it for once it feels like.”
Eagles’ point guard Kylie Huerta led all players with seven assists while committing zero turnovers, and of the 23 made field goals by EWU, 15 were assisted. Schuller liked the way her team distributed the basketball in the first half. “[It] kind of felt like everything was working. I thought our team did a great job of moving the ball [and] making the extra pass. We’ve talked about valuing possessions and getting great shots every time we’ve got the ball, and I thought in the first half especially that we did that.
“Kylie did a nice job for us and ran the show and got us organized,” Schuller said. “She does a nice job of getting into the seams of whatever they’re doing defensively and finding open players and capitalizing on people’s strengths.”
The Eagles came off a closely-fought victory two days previous, winning 75-72 over North Dakota on Jan. 17 and snapping a three-game losing streak to get back to .500. The win marked Schuller’s 150th victory as a head coach.
EWU shot just 10-30 in the first half of their win over North Dakota en route to a 34-29 halftime deficit. However, they converted on 15 of 26 second-half field goals and earned their first lead of the game with under three minutes left remaining. North Dakota’s Emily Evers’ layup with 1:30 remaining gave UND a one-point advantage, but senior Carrie Ojeda found Hodgins in stride for a layup and a one-point lead of their own, a lead the Eagles’ never relinquished.
“It was not always pretty tonight,” Schuller said. “I don’t think we played great in terms of offensive execution, and we still had breakdowns defensively, but in terms of a gusty-warrior-like performance, I could not be prouder of this team.”