Utah State University Eastern women’s basketball team continues to blow through its season with impressive stats, wins and records.
They started the Scenic West Athletic Conference with a bang by defeating the College of Southern Idaho 55-45 on Jan. 4 in Twin Falls, Idaho, as well as crushing Snow College 59-33 in Ephraim, Utah on Jan 9.
After a week away from basketball for Christmas holidays, Eastern’s team was brought back to school Jan. 29, to prepare and train for the big games ahead.
“Winning against CSI on its home court is always a struggle as they always have a huge support crew. Our first game after our break straight into conference round was a bit rough in the first quarter as it was a struggle for us as a team to settle into our own game.
“It took time, but we finally settled and held our composure as a team and finished the game well. It was a great team effort and we bought in to what our coaches had in the game plan for us all,” sophomore guard Morgan Toluono said.
It was a battle from the first whistle as both teams showed poor shooting percentages. Eastern shot 32.3% from the floor with 21 of 65 attempts, giving them a bit of a lead over Southern Idaho as they only shot 28.3% from the floor with 17 of 60 attempts. With such low shooting percentages, Eastern was able to dominate the game inside the paint by destroying Southern Idaho 22-14.
Second quarter of the game, the Eagles came out firing by out scoring Southern Idaho with a crazy score of 22-8. The Eagles used its strengths by pushing the ball up the court, attacking the rim with urgency to score as well as getting the ball inside the keyhole for their bigger players to score easy baskets. The Eagles were able to maintain this lead as they stayed with Southern Idaho up until the last quarter of the game where they finished the game with a 10-point differential.
During the weeks of practice leading to the game, the Eagles went over all the plays to recap their minds before the big game. They also did a lot of shooting drills to get their shooting rhythm back and the feel of the basketball again. It was tough leaving their families after Xmas, but the Eagles secured their first win of conference over Southern Idaho.
“I think in a player’s perspective, we have to keep playing hard and keep pushing to share the ball. So far, we have done a good job sharing the ball and getting our teammates open for a better option to shoot. If we can maintain that, we can execute plays and score off them each time,” sophomore Lamija Coric said.
Two Eastern women scored in double digits with Sharne Robati, freshman, scoring a high of 13 points and eight rebounds and Toluono, sophomore, scoring 10 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
It was a tough battle for the Eagles, but they fought until the end of the game, which gave them a 1-0 record in SWAC, plus an awesome way to start the conference. It gave them a big boost going into their next game against Snow College, a team they had not defeated in a long time on the Badger home floor.
After defeating CSI, the Eagles came away with another amazing win against Snow College, 59-33. This was a huge win for the Eagles as this is the first time since 2014 that an Eagles women’s team beat Snow. It was a huge deal to the players and the coaches as the team finally broke its losing streak.
The Eagles entered the game asthe underdogs as in previous years where they struggled to beat Snow. The Eagles came out with an extraordinary start, putting up a 15-3 run in the first quarter. Following the amazing start, throughout the second quarter Coric knocked down two huge back-to-back three pointers to get the Eagles up 30-16.
“We played really well as a team making that extra pass for a better option to score. We all shared the ball and able to find open shooters. Snow did really well at doubling the post as they knew from previous games those were some of our strengths, but as that happened, our post were able to find open shooters on the perimeter,” sophomore guard Kacelyn Toomer said.
The third quarter for both teams weren’t the greatest as the Eagles put up only nine points on the scoreboard, making it the lowest scoring quarter they’ve had all season. The Eagles continued to play impressive defence with Snow only scoring three points to finish the third quarter. Defence is a huge key to the Eagles game as defence is what wins games.
Freshman Margarett Otuafi, who was one-rebound short to earning a double double, scored a total of ninepoints and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Toluono was the top scorer of the game with 11 points to help contribute to the win over Snow.
“In the first five minutes of the game, it was a bit hard to get everything going as none of our shots were dropping, but we regrouped and pulled ourselves together. Although we didn’t dominate in the post game as much that game, our guards stepped up and played a great game by hitting outside shots,” Otuafi said.
The Eagles have been outstanding on the boards all year round and out rebounded every team they’ve played. The Eagles were able to do it again by out rebounding Snow 35-23.
This weekend, the Eagles have two challenging games.
On Thursday, Jan. 16, the Eagles go up against the Salt Lake Community College Bruins at 5 p.m. This is the Eagles’ first home conference game of the season. Both SLCC and Eastern received votes in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s top-25 rankings and sit No. 1 and 2 at the top of the SWAC rankings. The Eagles face Colorado Northwestern Community College on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m.