Eagles Face Challenge in Local Rival Gonzaga Before Three-Game Homestand
Eastern takes on Gonzaga Tuesday in Spokane at 6 p.m. before starting a three-game home stretch beginning with Cal State Northridge Friday
Date - Opponent - Time/Pacific
Dec. 1 - vs. at Gonzaga - 6 p.m.
Dec. 4 - vs. Cal State Northridge - 7:05 p.m.
Eagle Webcasts . . .
All of Eastern Washington's women's basketball games at home, as well as all Big Sky Conference games, will be available to view, free of charge, at www.bigskytv.org.
By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team is fresh off two tough games in Seattle during the annual Husky Classic, but it doesn't get any easier for the Eagles as they take on local rival and West Coast Conference favorite Gonzaga Tuesday (Dec. 1) in Spokane.
The Eagles spilt those two games in the Husky Classic, losing to Washington 64-46 on Friday (Nov. 27) and winning against Memphis 58-54 on Sunday (Nov. 29). Eastern held Memphis guard Brittany Carter to 18 points, two days after she set the Husky Classic record with a 49-point performance against Big Sky member Sacramento State.
Gonzaga is coming into Tuesday's game after losing to No. 2 Stanford Sunday 105-74 in Stanford, Calif. The Bulldogs are now 4-2 on the season with wins over USC and Washington. Forward Heather Bowman leads the Bulldogs in scoring with an average of 14.8 points per game, and is second on the team with an average of 6.3 rebounds per game. Gonzaga has three other players that are averaging double-figure points per game.
"They are very good basketball team -- this is maybe the best team they've had," said Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller of Gonzaga. "They have a little bit of everything from perimeter play to post play -- they have a lot of players who can score, a lot of length and are a very veteran group. They have been up against the best already this season, specifically Sunday at Stanford. We'll have our hands full."
Eastern will take on the Cal State Northridge Matadors Friday (Dec. 4) at Reese Court, with tip-off set for 7:05 p.m. The Matadors are 1-4 on the season, with their only victory coming against San Jose State by a score of 62-61. They are led by center Jasmine Erving, who leads the team in both points (17.5) and rebounds (5.5) per game.
The Eagles will then take finals week off, resuming with home games against Montana Tech on Dec. 12 and Cal Poly on Dec. 16.
"It's nice to be at home for three games," said Schuller. "It's always important that our players have the opportunity to be as successful as they can be in the classroom, so we always try to schedule around finals week. We're fortunate that the schedule worked that way for us and lets us play at home for a few games."
Now 4-2 on the season, the Eagles are led in scoring by forward Julie Piper with an average of 9.8 points per game, along with 6.5 rebounds per game that also lead the team. Eastern has used balanced scoring over their first six games, with no players averaging double figures. Chene Cooper came off the bench to score 17 points in just 19 minutes in Eastern's win over Memphis.
"I've been pleased with our bench play," said Schuller of her team's balance thus far. "We have several players who have come off bench to give us boost -- they are providing quality minutes and getting things done for us."
With six games under their belt, Eastern is halfway through its non-conference season in preparation for Big Sky Conference play. The Eagles have six more games before they open league Dec. 31 play at Sacramento State, which upset Washington (74-71) and lost to Memphis (98-83) at the Husky Classic.
"Every game we want to step on floor and be better than we were the day before," Schuller said. "Our goal is to prepare for Big Sky Conference play and keep getting better. The Gonzaga game is another chance for us to get better as a basketball team."
Defense Leading Way for Eagles Thus Far: Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller has been particularly pleased with Eastern's defense thus far, as opponents have averaged just 58.7 points per game against her team.
The team's top performances included a 58-54 victory over Memphis, which made only 36.9 percent of its shots and missed all nine of its three-pointers. Eastern is also averaging 10.0 steals per game, led by the 2.3 average per game of Brianne Ryan.
"We have been pleased with our effort on defense," Schuller said. "We have to continue to be tough on that end of the floor. On every possession we want to battle and make things hard on our opponent."
Shooting, however, has not been Eastern's strength. Eastern has made only 34.7 percent for the season, including 31.3 percent from the three-point stripe. The low point came with a 23.5 percent shooting night against Washington in a 64-46 loss.
"We are not shooting the ball well right now," Schuller said. "We are getting good shots but have to get to a point where we are knocking them."
"I was pleased with our effort on defense in both games," she added of her team's performance at the Husky Classic. "Against Washington our offense was dry in so many possessions that there is not much you can do to turn the outcome when you do that."
EWU Basketball Highlights . . .
- The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals three of the past eight years.
- For the last eight years, Eastern has ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. In 2003-04, Eastern had the top grade point average in the country, 3.63. In 2008-09 EWU ranked ninth (3.42).
- Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second team honors - Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
- The past eight seasons, 67 players have earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, the most in the league.
Eagle Returning Letter Winners . . .
Julie Piper attained the most impressive recognition for the Eagles during her sophomore season in 2008-09, as she earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades. She also ranked highly in the league's statistical rankings, placing fifth in free throw shooting (78.3 percent), sixth in rebounds per game (6.8) and 18th in points per game (11.1). Her shooting from the charity stripe also placed her 130th among NCAA Division I players and was the eighth-best in Eastern history. She will enter her junior campaign second in EWU history for career free throw shooting percentage (76.0). She had the best scoring output by an Eagle in the 2008-09 season, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in Eastern's battle with Big Sky runner-up Portland State on Jan. 24. Piper also set the team pace in rebounds in 18 different contests.
Kyla Evans continued her attack on the Eastern record books as a sophomore. She made 60 three-point baskets, the fifth-highest single-season total ever recorded by an Eagle, and moved her career sum to 112, good for fifth place. In fact, the sophomore's current career three-point shooting percentage of 38.4 is on pace to set the school record. Evans placed 82nd nationally in three-point shooting percentage (36.1) and 100th in three-point baskets per game (2.07). She was third and eighth in those respective categories in the Big Sky ranks. She made 6-of-10 in a 90-75 win over Montana State on Jan. 29 to help the Eagles to within one of the school record of three-point makes in a game (EWU shot 13-of-27 from beyond the arc in that contest). Evans showed her prowess in the classroom, as well, earning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 8 first team accolades. She was also the EWU Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December.
Nicole Scott had an outstanding junior season, as well, and the best display of her skills came on Dec. 13 against Pacific that helped her earn Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors.. In that contest, Scott nailed all six of her shots, including three treys, in the best shooting performance by an Eagle since Felice Moore also went 6-of-6 at Montana State on March 6, 2004. Additionally, Scott crafted an impressive streak of consecutive free throws made with 29 straight from Nov. 25-Feb. 7, just two shy of being one of the 22 longest such streaks in Division I history. She led the league in free throw shooting in Big Sky games by converting on 86.5 percent of her attempts (32-of-37). She was also an intimidating force inside, placing sixth in the conference in blocks per game (0.97).
Jessica Huntington was one of the steadiest point guards in the country in her junior season, as her assist-turnover ratio of 1.85 (94-to-50) was the tops in the Big Sky and 23rd best among Division I players. She also averaged 3.24 assists per game, placing seventh in that category among league players. She converted 40.7 of her three-point attempts (22-of-54), the sixth-best average in Eastern Washington history.
Tatiana Sparavalo also had some impressive performances during her sophomore season. She scored 15 in a challenging road game versus UNLV and shot at a high level against Portland on Dec. 15, making 5-of-9 attempts from the floor. In addition, Sparavalo had six of Eastern's points during a game-changing 18-3 run in a victory over Weber State on Jan. 10.
Brianne Ryan started 19 games as a freshman and saw her shooting percentages rise once league play commenced, markedly in the three-point category. She shot 27.3 percent from the arc in non-conference games (9-of-33) and 45.2 percent in league contests (14-of-31).
Chene Cooper also played well as a freshman in 2008-09. Her aggressive nature showed in her steals per game average of 1.62, seventh-best in the Big Sky. She also placed 12th in assists per contest with 2.41. In addition, she improved her shot-selection and shot-conversion skills throughout the season, making just 28.3 percent of her attempts through the first 22 games before converting on 41.3 percent over the last seven games.
Breauna Russell played in 16 games as an Eastern freshman in 2008-09, finishing the year with 16 points and 11 steals.
About Head Coach Wendy Schuller . . .
Under head coach Wendy Schuller, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has reached heights unseen in Cheney in decades, both on and off the basketball court.
Over the past eight campaigns, the team has been ranked amongst the top 10 squads on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll, something only achieved by one other team (Indiana State). The Eagle squad of 2003-04 placed first nationally with a 3.63 grade point average.
Schuller led Eastern to back-to-back .500-or-better regular-season Big Sky Conference records for the first time in school history (2004-05 and 2005-06) as well as tournament appearances in five of her eight seasons at EWU. To put that achievement into perspective, Eastern Washington played in just five BSC Tournaments in its first 13 years of Big Sky play.
Since the Big Sky began sponsoring women's sports in 1988-89, the Eagles have compiled two overall winning seasons and five trips to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals. Both of those winning marks came during Schuller's time on the Eastern campus, as did three of the five conference semifinal appearances.
Schuller and the Eagles have made Reese Court a challenging place for visitors to play, as Eastern has compiled a commanding 38-29 mark (.567 winning percentage) in its last 67 games played there. Eastern went 8-6 at home last year en route to recording 2.5 times as many overall wins as was attained the previous year, 10.
In 2005-06, Eastern Washington qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championship for the seventh consecutive season and was the fourth seed at the event for the second straight season, its highest seeding since the 1994-95 campaign.
She led Eastern to a winning campaign in 2004-05 (16-12) to start just the team's second set of consecutive winning seasons for the Eagles since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns.
The 2003-04 season saw Eastern Washington qualify for the BSC Tournament semifinal round for the third straight season.
In 2002-03, Eastern had its first winning campaign in 16 years at 17-12 and came the closest to making the Big Sky championship game in school history, falling in the semifinal round to top seed and host Weber State by just nine points, 64-55.
In Schuller's first season of 2001-02, Eastern Washington claimed a tournament quarterfinal contest as the fifth seed for the first of two straight seasons. The Eagles topped No. 4 Northern Arizona 70-57 to mark its furthest advancement in the tournament in seven years.
Prior to arriving at Eastern, Schuller began her coaching career at Northwestern State University. In 1993, she started coaching as a graduate assistant for the Lady Demons while earning a master's degree in sports administration.
Following graduation, she became a full-time assistant, and her duties included acting as defensive coordinator and primary recruiter and working with opponent preparation and general operations.
In 1997, she was promoted to associate head coach.
Her last six years at the Natchitoches, La., school saw her also serve as the senior woman administrator.
In total, Schuller coached for nine seasons at NSU under head coach James Smith, the most successful coach in Southland Conference history.
In that time span, the team won 185 games and two conference titles and earned a pair of wins over top-25 teams as one of the top-30 winningest NCAA Division I programs of the 1990s.
Schuller earned her bachelor's degree in business in 1992 from Fresno Pacific University after playing for the Sunbirds as a shooting guard.
Her senior season, she helped lead FPU to a 25-6 record, a No. 14 national ranking in the NAIA ranks and advancement to the NAIA Tournament's Round of 16. She was also selected as an NAIA Academic All-American that season.
A native of Redlands, Calif., Schuller and her husband, Mark, have an 9-year-old son, Rory (born Oct. 16, 2000), and a 6-year-old daughter, Megan (born July 15, 2003). The family resides in Cheney.