The first 20 minutes of its 2012-13 season looked great, but the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team struggled offensively in the second half, resulting in a 64-51 loss to Pacific University on Sunday (Nov. 11) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern shot 48 percent in the first half, and hit 8-of-9 free throws. The Eagles also earned a 19-14 advantage in rebounds and had five blocked shots.
The Tigers converted just 11-of-30 shots in the opening period, but eight of those 11 made field goals were from the 3-point arc. Pacific was also able to keep it close by forcing 10 Eagle turnovers.
Eastern jumped out to a 10-4 lead after converting four of its first six shots in the game. By the 13-minute mark, the Eags had extended that lead to double-digits at 14-4.
But after a 3-pointer from Pacific's sophomore guard Claire Conricode, the Tigers began to chip away at the lead. Eastern maintained a slight edge until just under three minutes in the half, when Pacific drained another 3-pointer to knot the score at 29.
Sophomore forward Melissa Williams hit a jumper to put Eastern back up by two, but the Tigers converted yet another long-range shot to take their first lead of the game at32-31. Following a couple of free throws for both teams, the Eagles and Tigers went into the locker room in a 33-33 deadlock.
"Offensively, we executed well in the first half," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "We were taking good shots, and knocking them down."
Unfortunately, that did not happen as much in the second half. Eastern converted just 6-of-27 field goals and only 5-of-11 from the charity stripe.
"Pacific came out as the aggressor in the second half, and we did not respond the way we needed to respond," said Schuller. "We missed a bunny shot here and a bunny shot there, and that turned into missing threes and missing layups. I thought we let it get in our heads more than we should have. We have to be mentally tougher than that. Shooting 45 percent from the line says a lot about our focus."
Pacific went 3-for-3 to open the half, which included another 3-pointer. But after that basket at 18-minute mark, Eastern locked down on the perimeter, and the Tigers made just one more long range shot the rest of the way.
The Tigers managed to take their first double-digit lead (52-41) at 8:54, and never looked back. Eastern made just three field goals in the final 10 minutes of the game.
"We can't score 18 points in a half and expect to win basketball games," said Schuller. "Pacific is a really good team, and this was a good test for us. It definitely exposed some things that we need to improve on. We have to improve our offensive execution, and we have to take better care of the ball."
Eastern did have 12-10 advantage in steals and forced 17 Pacific turnovers. But the Eagles had 19 miscues of their own, which led to 18 points on the other end of the floor.
"I was pleased with our defensive effort," said Schuller. "We held them to 41 percent in the game, forced 17 turnovers and were even on the glass. If we can continue to hold teams to 60-65 points, I think we can be successful."
The rebounding battle was dead even at 36, thanks in large part to Eastern senior Carrie Ojeda, who grabbed a career-high 17 boards. She had seven on the offensive glass and 10 defensive.
Ojeda also had a game-high 14 points for the first double-double of the year. She added four assists, four blocks and one steal, but did account for seven of Eastern's 19 turnovers.
"Carrie was an absolute monster on the glass," said Schuller. "We were really pleased with her effort. She played extremely hard and went after everything. But our other post players combined for just five rebounds, and that is not acceptable."
Sophomore Lexie Nelson, who was suiting up for the first time in red and white after transferring from Montana, contributed 11 points, while junior Laura Hughes chipped in 10.
Nelson also had four rebounds, three steals and two assists in her Eagle debut.
Eastern will play its second-straight opponent from the Big West Conference on Thursday (Nov. 15) when it takes on Cal State Northridge in its first road test of the 2012-13 season. The Eags will then be back at Reese Court on Sunday (Nov. 18) to face Portland.