Eastern Washington has been a different team since inserting Kylie Huerta into the starting lineup.
That move occurred after a loss at Sacramento State, which visited Reese Court on Thursday night and witnessed what Huerta adds to the Eagles’ lineup.
Huerta, a 5-foot-1 sophomore from Covington, Wash., had game highs of seven assists and four steals and scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half as EWU avenged its Jan. 12 loss to the Hornets with a 63-49 Big Sky Conference basketball victory.
EWU (13-9, 9-4) moved into third place alone, one game behind first-place Montana (10-3 BSC), which lost at Northern Colorado (9-3) on Thursday. The Eagles are 6-1 since moving Huerta to the starting lineup.
Eastern made the change because inside players Melissa Williams and Laura Hughes were injured in the 85-70 defeat against Sacramento State.
“If there was a game ball to be given, Kylie gets the game ball tonight,” EWU coach Wendy Schuller said. “She was phenomenal for us, not just on the offensive end where she made a lot of things happen, but she was huge defensively on Fantasia (Hilliard).”
“Coach has been talking about being a leader, that the point guard has to be a leader, so I’ve really stepped up since then,” Huerta said.
The Hornets (12-9, 7-5) hit 10 of 21 3-pointers when they defeated Eastern, powered by a combined 43 points by guards Hilliard and Alle Moreno. In the rematch, Huerta and Lexie Nelson clamped down on Hilliard and Moreno, holding them to 17 points and 1-for-12 shooting on 3-pointers.
Eastern held the Hornets, who came in averaging 73.1 points per game, to their lowest total of the season.
“We just took control early,” said Nelson, who had a game-high 17 points. “Making shots, that helps, then they’re not able to run, and getting boards.”
EWU’s Carrie Ojeda had her sixth double-double of the season, scoring 12 and pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds.
The Hornets led 21-12 in the first half when Huerta’s first basket of the game started an 11-0 run.
Huerta had a basket and an assist during a 9-0 second-half run for a 42-33 EWU lead. Eastern soon put the game away with a 10-0 run, fueled by Huerta’s six points, assist and steal.
“To hold a team like that who can go get 100 (points) to 49 … I’m very, very pleased with our effort,” Schuller said.