GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Eastern Washington got its holiday celebration started early as the Eagles women’s basketball team traveled to the Sunshine State and beat host Florida 67-56 on Monday to win the Gator Holiday Classic.
Taking on the Gators (7-5) on their home court, the Eagles (7-4) fell behind early, but fought back twice to take first-half leads.
The Gators again regained the lead until EWU guard Lexie Nelson hit a pair of free throws 1:24 before halftime to put Eastern up 28-27. Nelson, who scored a game-high 28 points, then hit a 3-pointer just before the half to give Eastern a 32-27 lead at the break.
The Eagles never again trailed, but the Gators got within five points at the 11:49 mark.
The Eagles eventually led by as many as 14 points, but the Gators again made a run and trailed by seven points with 3:40 to play before Nelson, Melissa Williams and Tisha Phillips made free throws to seal the Eagles’ third straight victory.
Williams, who put together a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Eastern, was named the tournament most valuable player.
The Eagles shot 22-of-56 from the field (39.3 percent), including 8-of-26 from behind the 3-point arc. Florida shot only 20-of-60 from the floor (30 percent), including a paltry 3-of-17 from 3-point range.
The Eastern defense prevented every Florida starter from scoring in double figures. Reserve sophomore guard Ronni Williams led the Gators with 12 points.
The Eagles open their Big Sky schedule on Jan. 1 at Weber State.
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