Defense was Key in Women’s Basketball Conference Road Sweep
February 9, 2017
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Thirty-four point seven. That is the shooting percentage the EWU women’s basketball team held its opponents from the field over the weekend, leading the Eagles to a road sweep over the Sacramento State Hornets and the Portland State Vikings, improving their record to 8-3 in Big Sky Conference (BSC) play.
The Eagles notably excelled in stifling the offense of their opponents in the first half of games, yielding just 22 points to the Hornets in the first half on Feb. 2 and 24 points to the Vikings on Feb. 4. Sacramento State is averaging 82 points per game this season, but the Eagles held the team to just 65 points on 7-35 (20 percent) shooting from beyond the arc.
“We worked hard to prepare, and I thought that our players really carried over the things that we wanted them to do in this game,” said head coach Wendy Schuller. “I thought defensively we did some nice things and played with a lot of intensity. It was good to see the ‘Big Three’ be effective for us offensively.”
EWU’s ‘big three’ of seniors Ashli Payne and Tisha Phillips, as well as junior Delaney Hodgins, carried the Eagles offensively during the weekend. In the 72-65 win over the Hornets, the three combined for 55 points on 18-36 (50 percent) shooting from the field. The trio also combined for 18 rebounds and 15 assists, as well as blocking five shots and recording two steals defensively.
It was much of the same story against the Vikings two days later, with Payne, Phillips and Hodgins combining for 50 of the team’s 68 points, while chipping in defensively with 27 rebounds, three blocked shots and five steals in EWU’s 68-62 win. Portland State shot a respectable 22-57 (38.6 percent) from the field, but shot just 3-12 (25 percent) from three-point range and 15-24 (62.5 percent) from the free throw line.
Schuller again noted the team’s defensive effort and complimented the play of the team’s three leading scorers.
“Anytime you can get a road sweep in the Big Sky it’s a good weekend,” said Schuller. “Today wasn’t always pretty, but we stepped up and made sure to get stops when we needed to.”
The Eagles, now 8-3 in conference play and 13-9 overall, are outscoring their opponents by an average of three points per game this season. The team is shooting 2.5 percent better from the field than opponents, 2.1 percent better from three-point range and 2.4 percent better from the free throw line. While the numbers seem marginal, it adds up to a team that has won four of its last five games and is in contention for a BSC championship come March.
The Eagles return to Reese Court for a pair of big games this weekend against fellow title contenders. They face off tonight against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (10-1 in BSC play) at 6:05 p.m., and then against the Northern Colorado Bears (10-1 in BSC play) at 2:05 p.m. on Feb. 11.