Eltayeb’s big second half propels Eastern Arizona past Moberly Area
LUBBOCK, Texas – While most collegiate basketball offenses are centered around guards and forwards who can shoot form outside, Moberly Area Community College and Eastern Arizona College to into a battle of the bigs on Tuesday.
Both teams turned the focus of their first-round game at the NJCAA Women’s Division I National Championships to their inside game, both teams making it a point of emphasis in the second half. In the end, it was someone in her first season playing basketball in three years who made the difference.
Redshirt freshman Nadira Eltayeb, who head coach Cameron Turner said missed the last two years with an Achilles injury, scored 16 of her 20 points and grabbed 13 of her 16 rebounds in the second half, and Eastern Arizona rallied for a 70-63 victory over Moberly Area at the Rip Griffin Center.
Six of those 16 points came during a 13-2 run for the Gila Monsters that turned a 52-49 deficit into a 62-54 lead with 3:55 to play, and they were able to hold off the Lady Greyhounds down the stretch.
“Defense and rebounding,” Turner said. “We hang our hat on playing hard-nosed, man-to-man, ball-pressure defense and you’re going to have to handle it. There’s a reason why two years in a row we’ve won defensive rebounding margin with different kids. It’s the mentality we have at Eastern.”
Eastern Arizona (17-2) advances to the second round where it will face No. 3 seed Chipola on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Moberly Area’s season ends at 18-6.
Indeed, the Gila Monsters dominated on the boards, outrebounding Moberly Area 48-34, including a 33-21 mark on the defensive end.
But it wasn’t without a struggle as Moberly Area also turned its focus to the paint and sophomore forward Kayla Langley, who scored 10 of her 14 points and grabbed six of her 11 rebounds in the second half. She opened the third quarter with six of the Lady Greyhounds’ first eight points, and freshman NJ Weems added 10 of her 13 points in the second half as Moberly built a 46-39 lead midway through the third quarter.
But when Eltayeb hit a putback with 1:18 to play, it capped a 6-0 run that pulled Eastern Arizona to within one, and Moberly held that same lead going into the fourth quarter, but could not hold it.
After a Langley layup to open the fourth, Catarina Ferreira (15 points) and Eltayeb hit back-to-back buckets for a 53-52 lead. Langley hit from inside, but Eastern Arizona scored the next nine points, the capper a putback by Eltayeb and a 3-pointer from Isis Smith to take an eight-point lead. Moberly got within 64-61 with 1:35 to play, but no closer.
Ajae Yoakum added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Eastern Arizona, most of that in the first half. Bryce Dowell added 10 for the Lady Greyhounds.
Combined the teams scored 76 points in the paint.
The Gila Monsters got off to a quick start behind the aggressive play of Yoakum, who scored nine of her 13 first-half points in the first four minutes of the contest. That allowed Eastern Arizona to quickly jump out to a 13-9 lead.
But once Moberly Area was able to cool her off, the Greyhounds were able to take control of the game. Trailing 18-17, the Lady Greyhounds continued their aggressive approach on the offensive end and put together a 16-0 run for a 29-18 lead early in the second half.
Eastern Arizona, however came right back and chipped into the lead with an 8-2 run. Nadira Eltayeb had a pair of layups in the run that cut the Moberly lead to 31-26. After a Kori Tomlin 3-pointer for Moberly, the Gila Monsters finished the half with two Yoakum free throws and a 3-pointer from the right corner by Isis Smith to make it a 34-31 game at the intermission.