BOISE – Eastern Washington scratched and clawed its way out of a 15-point second-half deficit Tuesday night to force overtime.
Violet Kapri Morrow came up big in the extra session.
The senior guard’s steal and layup at the 1:33 mark gave the Eagles their first lead against Idaho State, one the sixth-seeded Eagles wouldn’t relinquish in a 67-65 upset of the No. 3 seed Bengals at CenturyLink Arena.
EWU advanced to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals on Wednesday and will face No. 2 seed Northern Colorado. The Eagles split with the Bears during the regular season.
Top-seeded Idaho faces No. 4 seed Portland State in the other semifinal.
“I was like ‘Just go for it,’ ” Morrow said of her late steal at halfcourt and subsequent transition bucket. “We didn’t have anything to lose, so I just went for it, and I got it.”
Idaho State had multiple chances to regain the lead in the final minute, but a turnover, a missed layup and missed 30-footer as the buzzer sounded doomed the Bengals.
Morrow, who scored six of EWU’s eight overtime points, totaled a game-high 22 points for EWU, which had lost its previous two games to Idaho State by an average of 22 points.
The physical, defensive-minded Bengals made life hard for EWU, holding the league’s second-most prolific 3-point shooting team to 3 of 16 from behind the arc.
Idaho State forced EWU into 21 turnovers, and for the majority of the game never allowed the Eagles to get into a rhythm.
Three-pointers in the final 11 minutes of regulation by Morrow, Jessica McDowell-White and Alissa Sealby helped open things up for EWU, which scored 32 points in the paint.
When the Eagles couldn’t manufacture points from the outside, they looked to forward Bella Cravens, who scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“The big change was when we went to a zone (defense) and got into a little bit of a groove,” EWU coach Wendy Schuller said. “They picked apart our man-to-man defense early, because they’re so quick and efficient offensively.”
“EWU played a lot of zone tonight and we weren’t 100 percent ready for it,” said Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski, whose Bengals throttled EWU 74-45 last week in Cheney.
Schuller also lauded the offensive spark by McDowell-White, a freshman point guard from Australia who sank two free throws in the final 11 seconds that sent the game to overtime. She finished with 11 points and four assists.
Idaho State, which had the overwhelming majority of fans at CenturyLink Arena, was paced by Estefania Ors’ 18 points and five assists.
“The four teams left are all very good,” Schuller said of the semifinal qualifiers. “And each has special players and seniors who don’t want to be done.”
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