Women’s basketball’s historic season ends in second round of WNIT

Photo by goeags.com

Photo by goeags.com

By Brandon Cline, Staff Writer

A season in which the EWU women’s basketball team tied a school record with 21 wins and won its first postseason game came to an end on March 23 in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), falling to conference foe Sacramento State University, 84-49.

The Eagles were down by 10 at halftime, but Sacramento State outscored EWU, 46-21, in the final 20 minutes. EWU was 5-21 (28.3 percent) from the field in the second half, while Sacramento State was 18-33 (54.5 percent). The Eagles forced 23 turnovers in the game but committed 33 of their own.

“We did not handle their pressure. We knew what to expect for sure, but we didn’t handle it as well as we have in the past,” said head coach Wendy Schuller. “It didn’t help that we didn’t shoot the ball well. That didn’t help our confidence at all. We just weren’t ourselves tonight.”

Guard Lexie Nelson led the Eagles in scoring with 12 points in her final collegiate game and ends her college career ranked fourth all-time in school history in scoring with 1,388 career points. Her 204 made 3-pointers rank first in school history.

Senior Melissa Williams leaves EWU having tied the school record for most games played in a career with 122 and finishing second in program history with 832 rebounds.

EWU defeated Washington State University, 67-65, in the opening round of the tournament, the first postseason victory in program history, and the Eagles’ first win in the WNIT in three appearances under Schuller.

With the game tied at 65 apiece, point guard Jade Redmon drove to the rim and made a layup with 0.4 seconds left for the game-winning basket.

“I knew we were tied so either way it didn’t really matter, but I’m just glad I got the roll and it went in,” said Redmon.

Nelson scored 18 points in the victory to lead EWU, which shot 44.8 percent from the field, compared to 38.8 percent shooting for the Cougars.

“I’m really proud of our team. We stuck together throughout the whole game, played great team defense and just came together,” said Nelson. “I thought the coaches did a good job this week through practice, preparing us and making sure we were ready to play. All around it was just a great team effort.”

EWU was out-rebounded and committed more turnovers than WSU, but the Eagles shot 38.9 percent from deep, while the Cougars shot just 11.8 percent.

“I’m just excited for our team,” said Schuller. “I thought we played hard and well in a lot of aspects and earned the win. … We’ve had a phenomenal season and had some big wins along the way and this is another one that we’ll take a lot of pride in when we look back.”

Redmon, Hayley Hodgins and Delaney Hodgins return as starters next season as the Eagles look to build off one of the best seasons in program history. EWU finished 12-6 in regular season conference play and lost to eventual Big Sky Tournament champions Montana in the semifinal of the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

“Our season was historic and we had seniors and leaders on our team that made history. We should be really proud of that,” said Schuller. “We want to get better and we want to do more, but what we did this season is a huge step for our program. We had wins over Florida, Wichita State and Washington State and that’s what we want to look back on and remember.”