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Eastern Oregon University’s Rachel Fielder attempts a layup Friday during the first half of Eastern’s 73-64 home victory over Northwest University.

LA GRANDE — The shots weren’t falling in the first half Friday for the Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball team.

The Mountaineers, though, found their rhythm after the break to extend their winning streak and stay in a tie for first in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.

Jane Nelson scored 15 points to lead three Mountaineers in double figures, and EOU shot 59% in the second half to rally for a 73-64 home victory over Northwest University, the team’s 11th win in a row.

“Tonight we just had to grind,” EOU head coach Anji Weissenfluh said. “We just kept on working at it and we got going in the third quarter.”

Rachel Fielder added 14 points, and Kylie Smith had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. 

“Recently we’ve really found what works, and we’re able to play together a lot better,” Smith said.

Neither team was particularly sharp in the first half, but EOU was the worse for wear, shooting 30% in a first half that saw it trail by as much as 11 points before going into the break down just 30-27.

“We struggled at the beginning just to make shots,” Weissenfluh said. “We got the open shots but couldn't knock them down, and then when we didn't knock them down it got us out of our rhythm.” 

The shots started to fall after the break, and the defense helped trigger a couple of key runs to put Eastern ahead for good. 

Nelson and Smith scored to pull EOU within 32-31 early in the third, and EOU took the lead 34-32 a couple minutes later when Fielder’s steal led to a 3-pointer by Taylor Stricklin. 

Sam Van Loo and Smith traded buckets before Stricklin grabbed a steal that led by a layup by Nelson, and back-to-back 3s by Fielder and Madison Crews after Northwest misses put Eastern ahead 44-34 with 3:47 to play in the third, the team’s largest lead at the time. 

“What we’ve been hanging our hat on is defense and rebounding,” Weissenfluh said.

Lexi Biggerstaff’s layup — her only points in the second half after 11 in the first — capped a 10-2 run to get the Eagles within two, but Smith’s 3-point play off a missed free throw put the Mountaineers ahead 50-44 after three. 

“When we’re not having a great shooting night overall, those little things, like getting offensive rebounds, looking for the ball off free throws any time you can to get us another opportunity to score, those things were key to keeping us ahead,” Smith said.

Baskets by Emma Logan and Fielder before a Nelson 3-pointer put Eastern ahead 57-46 with 8:10 to play, and Northwest got no closer than six the rest of the way.

The hot-shooting second half lifted EOU to a 44% clip from the floor on the night, and Eastern was 4-for-6 from the 3-point line in the second half after going just 5-for-17 in the first half.

Van Loo and Maya DuChesne each had 14 points to lead Northwest. 

Eastern (20-7 overall, 14-3 CCC), which reached the 20-win mark for the ninth year in a row, hosts Evergreen State College Saturday.

East Region Sports Editor

Ronald's primary beats are Eastern Oregon University, La Grande High School and the other eight high schools of Union and Wallowa counties. As an avid sports fan, he is primarily reading about or watching sports when he isn't covering a game.

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