LA GRANDE — It had been nearly four years since the Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball team lost at home, a streak of 50 consecutive games.
That streak ended Friday night as an EOU squad still trying to find its identity fell to Northwest Christian — the last team that had beaten the Mountaineers in Quinn Coliseum — 66-63 in Cascade Collegiate Conference play.
"They’re never going to beat themselves. If you're going to come in here and win, you gotta beat them," said NCU head coach Chad Meadors. "We competed. We just told our kids to keep fighting."
The back-and-forth battle saw seven lead changes in the fourth quarter alone.
EOU claimed a 63-61 advantage on a 3-pointer by Megan Still with 2:21 to play. But Morgan McKinney, who scored 21 points to lead NCU and the Beacons’ last nine points, took over in the closing minutes. She scored twice in the paint after Still’s 3-pointer, the second field goal with 1:29 to go putting the Beacons ahead 65-63. McKinney then collected a key steal on the defensive end in the closing seconds with EOU looking for the tie. With 3.6 seconds left, she split a pair of free throws, leaving the door open for the Mountaineers, but Eastern’s last-second look at a tying 3-pointer by Whitney Meier fell short.
EOU head coach Anji Weissenfluh said the team is struggling with consistency and still is trying to figure out what will get it on track.
"Honestly, what frustrates me most is the lack of playing team basketball. And it's not out of selfishness. We’re not playing selfish basketball," she said. "We’re just playing uninspired, scared, individual basketball. We just for some reason cannot put the puzzle together, and that's on me. That's on me as a coach. We gotta figure it out."
The loss was the first at home for the Mountaineers since a 63-54 setback to the Beacons Jan. 22, 2016. Quinn Coliseum has been a house of horrors for visiting teams since that time. Not only had the Mountaineers won 50 straight, but 43 of those wins were by 10 points or more.
Meadors said EOU's home-court winning streak spoke highly of what Weissenfluh has accomplished over the last few years.
"I’d love to say great things about NCU on this, but man, that's amazing. What Anji has built here is so tremendous," Meadors said. "It’s a real testament to the program she runs and the class program that is here at Eastern Oregon."
NCU, which led by as many as seven points in the first half, went into the break ahead 35-32 on a late 3-pointer by Sarah Reinecker.
The Mountaineers responded to open the third quarter and seemed to be in control, as a 10-2 run — capped by field goals from Taylor Stricklin, Still and Jill Albright — gave EOU its largest lead at 45-37 with 4:12 to play in the quarter. McKinney had a late basket to trim the EOU lead to 49-46 after three, and she had a tying field goal in the fourth to knot the score at 51-51 with 7:40 to play.
Stricklin, Albright and Meier all scored during a wild minute of back-and-forth action, with Meier’s steal and layup giving Eastern a 60-57 lead with 4:04 remaining before McKinney took over.
"She’s a go-to player," Weissenfluh said of McKinney. "She’s a difference maker. She’s one of the top three players in the conference hands down. She's tough. She can beat you (in) a lot of ways."
Neither team was sharp from 3-point range, with EOU going 6-for-24 and NCU hitting at a 6-for-21 clip.
Rachel Fielder led Eastern with 14 points and also grabbed six rebounds. Stricklin added eight points, and Beverly Slater had seven points and a game-high 11 boards. Still had seven points, and Emma Logan had a game-high eight assists.
The Mountaineers dropped a second consecutive home game Saturday, and third in a row overall, with a 68-57 loss to Corban.
The teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 46-46, but the Warriors opened the final period with an 11-2 run to go ahead 57-48 on a Shawnie Spink 3-pointer with 4:46 to play. Stricklin countered with a 3 for EOU to end the run, but the Mountaineers pulled no closer the rest of the way.
Jordan Woodvine led Corban with 22 points.
Jane Nelson and Madison Crews led EOU with 15 points each, and Fielder added seven points.
EOU (9-7 overall, 3-3 CCC) visits Evergreen State College Friday.