Hughes 18 Points Leads Eastern in Big Sky Opener - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hughes 18 Points Leads Eastern in Big Sky Opener

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© Picture by EWU Athletics © Picture by EWU Athletics

by Eastern Washington Univ. Athletic

OGDEN, UT - The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team shot a season-high 55.2 percent from the field, 53.3 percent from 3-point land and 94.1 percent from the charity stripe en route to a dominant 88-60 victory over Weber State in the 2012-13 Big Sky season opener Thursday (Dec. 20) in Ogden, Utah.

With the win, Eastern improves to 4-5 on the year and 1-0 to start the Big Sky season. The Wildcats remain winless in the 2012-13 campaign at 0-10 and 0-1 in league play.

Along with earning their ninth-consecutive win over Weber State, and fifth-straight in Ogden, the Eagles are now 10-2 in conference openers under head coach Wendy Schuller.

For the second game in a row, four different players scored in double figures, including juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter and Laura Hughes, who led team with 18 a piece. Ashenfelter hit a career-high four 3-pointers and made 6-of-6 shots from the free throw line, while Hughes made a career-high eight of her 12 attempts in the paint.

"We really had the inside-out game going today," said Schuller. "That's what impressed me the most. I think we are really starting to understand each other's strengths and where to get people the ball. We are definitely growing in that way."

Eastern made the first two baskets of the game, but the Wildcats responded on their home floor, scoring 13 of the next 18 points. The Eags converted on its next four possessions to take a 20-17 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. The Wildcats managed to keep it within single digits though until the final minutes of the half when EWU went on a 13-4 run to enjoy a 41-28 advantage heading into the locker room.  

"I didn't think early on we were as mentally focused as I'd wanted to be," said Schuller. "We've had 12 days off since our last game, so it took a little while to shake the rust off - and with Christmas break right around the corner, it's always a little tough. But as the game went on, we got better and better and we our found our focus. After the first 10 minutes or so, I felt like we were picking up right where we left off in Boise."

In its final non-conference game on Dec. 7, EWU cruised past Boise State, 74-63, in another hot shooting game.

In the second half in Ogden, Eastern made 20-of-36 attempts from the field and had 13 assists with just one turnover.  The Eagles also forced 11 Wildcat miscues.

"We made some adjustments in the second half, which forced them [Weber State] to rush things," said Schuller. "I also thought we took much better care of the ball, and that enabled us to take a lot more shots."

Eastern led by as many as 32 in the second half. In its last two games, EWU has averaged 81 points, which is nearly 30 points more than it had averaged in the first seven games of the year.

In addition to 18 points from Ashenfelter and Hughes, sophomore Lexie Nelson chipped in 14 and senior Carrie Ojeda added 13.

Sophomore point guard Kylie Huerta had an almost perfect game, as she finished with a career-high eight points on a 3-of-3 effort from the floor, while also converting her one attempt at the free throw line. She also tied her career-high in assists with seven, and had three steals. The only blemish on her stat line was one turnover in her 18 minutes of play.

Junior Chenise Pakootas also contributed seven points, while sophomore Melissa Williams and redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins each had four. Williams led the team on the glass for the fourth time this season with six rebounds.

As a team, EWU tallied a season-high 22 assists. Huerta had a game-high seven, while Nelson added six, Ashenfelter three, and three other players had two.

"The assist-to-turnover ratio in this game was pretty impressive, and shows how well we are sharing the ball," said Schuller. "That is a really positive step for us, it says a lot about our team effort."

Eastern will look to carry that momentum into its next conference game on Saturday (Dec. 22) against defending Big Sky regular-season and tournament champion Idaho State. The Eagles have not won at Reed Gym in Pocatello since 2003, but Eastern will enter the contest on a two-game winning streak, and playing its best basketball of the year.