The Vikings handed the Eastern Washington Eagles their first conference loss of the season Saturday night at the Peter Stott Center, by a score of 78-69.
The game was close for much of the first half, but Eastern Washington led by three at the break when the score stood at 24-21.
Both teams came alive in the second half, and the Eagles gained the lead by as much as nine with 8:32 left in regulation play. Portland State was able to catch up thanks to some solid shooting, including a 15-of-19 (78.9 percent) run at the foul line in the half. They were also 53.8 percent from 3-point range, while EWU went only 1-of-11 (9.1 percent) in the game.
The Vikings faced a unique challenge in overtime play, having lost starting point guard Jane Gowans in the first half due to blurred vision, as well as back-up Michelle Thueson, who fouled out with 29 seconds left in the second half. Heidi Stuart stepped up to cover the position in overtime and contributed 15 points overall in the game.
Viking forward Sarah Hedgepeth had an outstanding game, scoring 23 of her 28 points after the halfway mark. She also had 14 rebounds and three steals. Guard Nikki Petticrew added 16 points and six rebounds.
“I can’t say enough about how our players hung in there,” head coach George Wolfe said of the game in a press release. “Eastern Washington is a very good defensive team, and we were able to maintain our composure.”
Eagle Kathleen Nygaard led her team with 22 points, 18 of which came after halftime. Janelle Ruen had 11 points in the game, and guard Stephanie Ulmer had 10. Michelle Demetruk, who has been a team leader in recent EWU games, was held to just eight points.
Saturday night’s win ended PSU’s five-game losing streak against Eastern Washington and proved that the Vikings may be poised to become a real presence in the Big Sky Conference this year. Eastern Washington had won its first two conference games of the season and was hoping to get off to a 3-0 start – the best in the program’s BSC history. Thanks to the Vikings, the Eagles now have a record of 11-5 overall, 2-1 in the BSC.
The Vikings have an overall record of 7-9 and are 2-1 in BSC play for the first time since their 1999-2000 season. They also successfully defended their stellar home-court record, which now stands at 6-1.
Next up, PSU takes on two more conference foes at home this week, with games against Weber State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday.