It took the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team a little time to work out some kinks -- as is expected in the first game of the year. But by the second half, the Eagles exhibited a more composed offense and disciplined defense in their exhibition game against Carroll College. Eastern defeated the Fighting Saints, 68-45, on Sunday (Nov. 4) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The game does not count in the overall season record or statistics for either team.
Eastern jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Sunday, after forcing six turnovers in the first five minutes of the game. Midway through the half, junior Chenise Pakootas and sophomore Lexie Nelson hit back-to-back layups, followed by another fast-break layup off the hand of sophomore Kylie Huerta, which gave Eastern its biggest lead of the half at 19-6.
But over the next seven minutes, Eastern missed nine-straight field goal attempts and turned the ball over five times, while the Saints knocked down five shots, including one 3-pointer, and converted 3-of-3 free throws to pull within one at 21-20.
After missing her first seven shots in the game, junior Laura Hughes ended the Eagle scoring drought with back-to-back baskets, giving EWU a 25-20 advantage with just over two minutes to play in the half. Both teams managed to put one more point on the board before heading into the locker room.
Although the Eagles out-rebounded Carroll, 32-16, in the first half, Eastern made just 10-of-41 shots from the field, and missed all six of its 3-point attempts.
"We forced a ton of shots, and the good shots we had, we didn't knock down," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller, who is in her 12th season at the helm of the program. "All around, we were in such a hurry. We were just trying to take a lot of shots instead of looking for the best opportunity. We can play hard and fast, but we also need to play under control."
The Eagles demonstrated more patience in the second half, and it showed up in the box score. Eastern shot 52 percent from the field , and made 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. The Eagles also had a 20-4 advantage in points in the paint.
Carroll was held to just 20 percent shooting in the second, and gave up 10 points off of turnovers.
"During halftime, we talked about some corrections we wanted to make defensively, and we preached the importance of mental toughness, especially on the offensive end," said Schuller. "Our play was definitely better in the second half. We waited more in transition for things to develop, and we shared the ball a little better. We still have a long way to go, and we can improve a lot. But our effort was good, and I was able to get a good feel for our rotation."
Eastern was led by Nelson - who was suiting up for the first time in an Eastern jersey, after transferring from Montana following the 2010-11 season. Nelson finished with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and made all six of her attempts from the charity stripe. She also had seven rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Also seeing their first real minutes of collegiate ball were redshirt-freshmen Hayley Hodgins and Kayleigh Ryan, and true freshmen Hanna Mack and Cece Pearl.
"This was their first time under the bright lights, which you could see a little bit," said Schuller. "But that's why we play these exhibition games - to give those new players that first look. I have high expectations for our team, and sometimes it is easy to forget those players are freshmen. But I thought we got a good effort today."
Mack contributed two points, three rebounds and three blocked shots in her debut, while Ryan pulled down five rebounds.
With two years of experience under her belt, Hughes joined Nelson in double figures with 12 points, eight of which came in the second half. She had eight rebounds and blocked two shots in 23 minutes on the court.
Sophomore Melissa Williams and juniors Chenise Pakootas and Aubrey Ashenfelter each chipped in eight points, and combined for 10 of Eastern's 14 assists in the game. Williams also led the team on the glass with 11 rebounds. Altogether, Eastern out-rebounded Carroll, 56-27.