Eags earn first Big Sky in comeback fashion over UND - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eags earn first Big Sky in comeback fashion over UND

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By EWU Athletics

CHENEY, Wash. – An 8-0 run in the final minute of play helped lift the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team to a Big Sky Conference victory over North Dakota by a final score of 74-70 on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 30). The Eagles came back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to secure their first conference win of the season.

"I love our grit, I love our pride and I love our will to fight throughout the entire game. It was a game of runs by both teams. At halftime, I thought to myself that this was the Eagle basketball team I have been trying to squeeze out all year," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "I thought our players were prepared and mentally in it, we played extremely hard. I loved our effort."

Delaney Hodgins led Eastern with 27 points, 20 of which came in the second half and eight of which came in the final minute of play. It was the 10th straight game in double digit scoring and her seventh time scoring 20-or-more points this season. The senior also added 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

Symone Starks followed with 14 points and Mariah Cunningham added 11. Cunningham made three of four free throws down the stretch and grabbed six rebounds in only nine minutes of action.

Eastern took its first lead early in the second quarter. The first half alone saw nine ties and three lead changes, as each side went basket-for-basket. The Eagles held UND scoreless for over three minutes during the second quarter. A Mariah Cunningham layup helped give Eastern its largest lead of the quarter by four points and the Eagles would take a 32-30 lead into the locker room.

The Eagles led 47-40 in the third quarter when the Fighting Hawks went on a 12-0 spurt to gain a 52-47 advantage after three quarters.

UND's run continued into the fourth quarter where they led 60-49 at one point. After Eastern went 4-for-5 from field goal range and held the Fighting Hawks scoreless for over three minutes, they cut the deficit to two following a Cunningham layup.

With 1:09 remaining, Hodgins hit a triple and then stole the ball in the backcourt, putting EWU within one point 70-69. Hodgins would hit another jumper with 32 seconds left, putting Eastern ahead.

Cunningham had a huge steal with 17 seconds left and was fouled in the bonus and went 1-for-2 from the line to lead 72-70. UND took two field goal attempts with 12 seconds remaining, causing Cunningham to get fouled grabbing a defensive board. She would make both free throws and lifted Eastern Washington to a 74-70 victory as EWU closed the game on an 8-0 run in the final minute.

Win-Loss Records: Eastern Washington improves to 6-8 overall and an even 1-1 in Big Sky play. North Dakota falls to 7-6 and 0-2 in conference play. EWU snaps a two-game losing streak to the Fighting Hawks as the series history moves to 5-4 all-time in UND's favor.

What it Means: North Dakota was picked to finish second in both the Big Sky Conference preseason media and coaches' polls and came in at 94 on the latest NCAA RPI.

Key Statistics: Eastern shot a season-best 47.5 percent (29-61) from the field and were 60 percent from three-point range (6-10) and 83.3 percent (10-12) from the charity stripe. They held the Fighting Hawks to 41 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range.

EWU outrebounded UND 38-to-31 and scored 18 points off of turnovers. Eastern Washington only led for 10:36 and there were five lead changes.

Top Performers: Delaney Hodgins led the team with 27 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Freshman Brittany Klaman dished out a career-high eight assists. Symone Starks and Violet Kapri Morrow each had two steals.

Notables: Mariah Cunningham scored a season-high 11 points, it was her first time in double figures this season… Delaney Hodgins had her 10th straight double digit game and the 90th of her career… Symone Starks had her fourth straight double digit game, sixth of the season… Delaney Hodgins garnered her second double-double of the season… Amira Chandler tied her career-high with eight points… Delaney scored over 20 points for the seventh time this season and 23rd time in her career… Brittany Klaman dished out a career-high eight assists.

Up Next: Eastern Washington continues Big Sky play and opens 2018 on the road against Portland State (Jan. 4) and Sacramento State (Jan. 6).  

Soaring to the Top: After scoring 27 points tonight, Delaney Hodgins now has 1,700 career points to rank third all-time on EWU's all-time career scoring list. The Preseason Big Sky MVP is just 33 points away from moving into sole possession of second place and is 164 away from breaking her older sister Haley Hodgins' all-time record of 1,865 points.
 
More from Coach Schuller:

On picking up a win over a top team in the Big Sky: "This was necessary. Every single game you play, you never know what it's going to do for you down the road. More than anything, whatever this means in the standings, I like what this does for our psyche. It shows that we can play this and do what we need to do for 16 more games of basketball leading up to the conference tournament."

On Delaney Hodgins: "Delaney is a special player. She stepped up and made special shots late in the game. Our team has a lot of confidence in her to get her the ball so she can go to work and make those big shots. Delaney does that for us and other kids do a lot of other things for us and that's why I love this team, we really are a team, we aren't about one or two people. We're about everybody doing their job."

 

On Mariah Cunningham: "Mariah is a special player. She gives us everything she has every single day. In the first half, she really got us going with her offensive rebounds. She came in and stepped up and got big rebounds and shots and forced turnovers, she made huge plays and I'm happy to see her do that. Mariah is an awesome kid and she's earned it, she's a senior who is everything that Eagle basketball is about."

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