Tisha Phillips (Nez Perce Tribe) Scores 9 Points as EWU Wins first Round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI)

Tisha Phillips (Nez Perce Tribe)
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SAN MARCO, Texas — It was a tale of two halves for the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team against Texas State in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational on Monday (March 16), as the Eagles overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to collect their second-ever national postseason victory with a 66-62 overtime win over the Bobcats.

“I’m really proud of our team for digging deep,” said head coach Wendy Schuller after the game. “We had a tough first half. It really felt like our hearts got ripped out in Reno, and it didn’t really feel like we had a collective unit out there in the first two quarters. They answered the call in the second half. We really stepped up our defense and was a lot better on the glass today. This was a great program win.”

Things were not looking good for the Eagles through the first 20 minutes of play, as they trailed by as many as 16 points points at the break and had giving up a 57.7 shooting percentage to the host Bobcats through the first two frames.

TSU opened the third quarter with back-to-back buckets to go up 42-28, but the Eagles would roll off 13-straight points over the next four-plus minutes to pull within one at 42-41 with 5:54 left to play in the frame. Sophomore Amira Chandler finally gave the Eagles the lead at 49-48, as she sank an elbow jumper right before the third quarter buzzer sounded.

Chandler’s basket set the scene for a fourth-quarter battle, as the two teams traded the lead four times in the day’s final frame. Texas State tied the game at 55-55 with 3:06 remaining and that would be the last basket scored by either team in regulation, as the two squads put on a defensive clinic over the final three minutes to send the game into overtime.

TSU opened the extra period with a jumper to take a 57-55 lead, but Eastern would go on a 7-0 from that point to take a 62-57 lead thanks to a 3-point field goal from redshirt senior Tisha Phillips (Nez Perce Tribe) and a pair of layups from junior Delaney Hodgins and sophomore Alissa Sealby. Phillips was a sparkplug for the Eagles in the extra frame, as she scored six of her nine points in overtime.

The Bobcats tried to extend the game at the foul line, but the Eagles would go 4-of-6 from the line down the stretch to collect the program’s second-ever postseason win in a national tournament

Eastern Washington got a stellar performance from senior Ashli Payne, who collected her team-best fifth double-double of the year, with a game-high 27 points and a season-best 14 rebounds in the win. The Bremerton, Washington native also tied her season-high in 3-point makes with four against the Bobcats.

“This could have been my final game,” Payne expressed. “I wanted to go out there and be aggressive and step up when I need to. Thankfully, my (3-point field goals) where falling today and we get to play again.”

Payne was the lone Eagle with double-digit points on Thursday, but EWU got a nine-point effort from Hodgins, Phillips and sophomore Violet Kapri Morrow. Phillips also dished out a game-high five assists on Thursday.

Win-Loss Record: The Eagles improve to 19-13 overall, while Texas State’s season comes to an end at 16-15.

What It Means: With today’s victory, Eastern Washington advances to the Quarterfinals of the WBI. It Is just the second time in program history the Eagles have collected a victory in a national postseason tournament, as they previously knocked off Washington State, 67-65, in Pullman during the 2015 WNIT.

Key Stats: Texas State led in nearly every category on Thursday, but the difference in the game ended up being at the free throw line. Eastern Washington went 11-of-16 (68.8%) from the charity stripe, while the Bobcats shot 5-of-11 (45.5%). Eastern also nailed two more 3-point field goals than TSU at 7-5.

Top Performers: Senior Ashli Payne scored a career-high 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to collect her fifth double-double of the season. The forward tied a pair of season highs on Thursday, as she matched her season-best in caroms and sank four 3-point field goals.

Redshirt senior Tisha Phillips was one of three Eagle players to nine points against Texas State and she handed out a team-best five assists. Phillips stepped up her game in the overtime period, as six of her nine points came during the game’s extra frame, which include an eventual game-winning 3-point field goal with 3:34 left to play.

Notables: Today’s game was the first-ever appearance in the WBI for Eastern Washington. It was also the first time they ever played Texas State.

With the win, Eastern picks up its second-ever win in a national postseason tournament. The win also marks the Eagles first-ever win over a team from Texas, while they improve to a perfect 5-0 against the Sun Belt Conference.

Eastern improves to 2-5 all-time in national postseason tournaments. They are 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament, 1-4 in the WNIT and are now 1-0 in the WBI.

What’s Next: The Eagles return to Reese Court on Monday (March 20) to play in the program’s first-ever national postseason home game. They’ll host rival Idaho in the WBI Quarterfinals at 6 p.m. PT. It will be the fourth time in 2016-17 Eastern has taken on the Vandals. EWU went 2-1 against UI this season, while they knocked the Vandals out of last week’s Big Sky Tournament with a 73-64 win in the Quarterfinals last Wednesday (March 8). The defeated UI 67-57 in Reese back on Dec. 31 in the Big Sky regular season opener.