EWU women’s basketball beats Idaho in home conference game

Sophomore+guard+Amy+Hartleroad+shoots+over+a+Idaho+defender+in+the+team%27s+victory+on+Jan.+12.+The+Eagles+are+now+8-9+on+the+season+and+3-2+in+Big+Sky+play.+%7C+Photo+courtesy+of+Ron+Swords

Sophomore guard Amy Hartleroad shoots over a Idaho defender in the team’s victory on Jan. 12. The Eagles are now 8-9 on the season and 3-2 in Big Sky play. | Photo courtesy of Ron Swords

By Jeremy Burnham, Reporter

The EWU women’s basketball team climbed above .500 in Big Sky Conference play for the first time this season, with a 71-64 win over the Idaho Vandals on Jan 12. The Eagles are now 3-2 in Big Sky play and 8-9 overall.

Senior forward Delaney Hodgins continued her stellar season, leading the Eagles in points (19), rebounds (12) and assists (four). Hodgins also recorded her fourth double-double of the season. The Eagles continued to get strong team scoring, as nine players scored and four players had double digits.

Sophomore forward Uriah Howard returned to the lineup after missing the past four games due to injury. Howard, who hadn’t suited up since Dec. 20, and who watched the conference opener from the sidelines on crutches, came off the bench on Friday and scored all 10 of her points in the first half.

“She gave us great scoring in the first half,” EWU head coach Wendy Schuller said following the victory. “She’s somebody who we are excited to have back. We’ll get her going more and more as the weeks progress.”

Junior guard Kapri Morrow had 15 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Symone Starks added 11 points and three steals. Starks remains at No. 10 for most steals per game as well as overall in NCAA Division I women’s basketball.

“We played hard, and we played fearlessly,” said Schuller. “Offensively, that was something we struggled with early in the year. We thought about things way too much. But today, I thought we really played fearlessly.”

The Eagles protected the ball from start to finish, a statistic that has plagued the team all season. In conference play, they have averaged 15.75 turnovers a game, and committed 20 against Northern Colorado on Dec. 27. However, against Idaho, they turned the ball over a season-low four times.

“It wasn’t [a special focus],”  said Schuller. “It was just us playing with confidence and making good decisions. It’s a wonderful thing to see. We have been better the last three games in that category than we have been all season. Part of that is because we are starting to get comfortable with what we are trying to do offensively.”

On paper, the two teams looked pretty even coming into the game. Both came in with a 2-2  record in conference play. EWU was 7-9 overall, while UI was 6-9.

The game was a close contest throughout, though the Eagles led for most of the game. As close as the score remained, there were only three lead changes.

UI’s largest lead of the game was three points, when they led 3-0 less than a minute in. EWU quickly tied the game up with a three-pointer by freshman guard Brittany Klaman. The teams would go back-and-forth, and the opening frame ended with the Eagles leading 16-15.

Idaho would retake the lead 20-18 in the second quarter, but Morrow quickly erased it with five straight points in less than a minute. EWU held on to that lead for the remainder of the game.

Defensively, the Eagles had a strong first half against senior forward Geri McCorkell, the team’s leading scorer. McCorkell, who scored 39 points against Portland State on Jan. 6, was held to just eight points in the first half by the Eagles. EWU took a 36-30 lead into the locker room.

The third quarter would see the Eagles climb to the game’s only double digit lead, when they briefly led by 12. At the end of the quarter, EWU’s lead was nine.

The Vandals closed the gap in the fourth quarter, pulling within two on a pair of occasions. They never got any closer than that. Even when UI was within two points of tying the game, the Eagles never lost their composure.

“We just had to settle down and keep doing what we did the whole game,” said Hodgins. “We had to get back in transition, and play how we know to.”

The game was the first of a three game home stand for the Eagles. They will host Northern Arizona on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. and Southern Utah on Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. Admission is free for all students.