Eagles Gunning for Series Sweep of NAU and WSU
Eastern hosts Lumberjacks in WBCA "Pink Zone" Game Thursday - fans who wear pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness will be granted FREE admission!
**Click HERE for a complete set of game notes in PDF format, which includes more information on the WBCA Pink Zone and a full breakdown of the race to the Big Sky Conference tournament**
EWU vs. Northern Arizona
Thursday, Feb. 17 - 7:05 p.m. PST
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
EWU vs. Weber State
Saturday, Feb. 19 - 2:05 p.m. PST
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
TV: Televised regionally by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287)
(All home games and all Big Sky Conference games)
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team returns home this week for an important pair of Big Sky Conference games against Northern Arizona and Weber State. The Eagles have a leg up on both opponents, having already defeated the Jacks and Wildcats on the road. But at this point in the season, nothing can be taken for granted. Each week, the games separating the top six from the bottom three become less and less, and the battle for postseason positioning is at the heart of every contest.
The Eagles, who possess a 5-5 record in Big Sky play, are currently one and a half games ahead of Northern Arizona in the league standings. The Lumberjacks improved their conference mark to 4-7 after winning both games last weekend against Sac State and Idaho State, but are still one spot behind Eastern and one spot away from a postseason bid.
"NAU is playing its best basketball of the year right now," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "They had a great weekend against Sac and Idaho State, and moved themselves up significantly in terms of positioning for the conference tournament. It is going to be a heated game on Thursday. Both teams are playing for a lot."
The Wildcats are further behind in the standings with a 1-9 mark in the Big Sky. Eastern beat WSU 73-67 in its most recent outing in Ogden, but it was a tight game that EWU won after hitting some important shots down the stretch.
"The win at Weber was really important for us," said Schuller. "It gave us some confidence back in knowing that we can finish and win games. I was proud of our effort, and glad to come away with a road win because any win on the road in the Big Sky is an impressive accomplishment."
The Lumberjacks will visit Reese Court for the annual "Pink Zone" game on Thursday (Feb. 17). The WBCA Pink Zone initiative is a global, unified effort for the WBCA's nation of coaches to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. All fans who wear pink to Thursday's game will be granted FREE admission. The EWU Health and Wellness Center will be on hand to pass out information on Breast Cancer Awareness and accept donations from fans who would like to contribute. All proceeds will go to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
In the first meeting of the regular season between EWU and NAU, the Eagles jumped out to 17-point lead in the first eight minutes of the game. After dialing in a bit on the defensive end, the Lumberjacks were able to close the gap to three before halftime. The Jacks continued to threaten, but Eastern went on a 13-4 run midway through the second half and made 6-of-6 free throws in the final seconds to hold on for the 60-53 victory in Flagstaff.
Eastern leads the all-time series with NAU, 28-23. The Eagles have won five of the last six meetings, including three in a row at Reese Court. Under Schuller, the Eags are 7-2 when playing on their home floor.
The Lumberjacks rely heavily on sophomore Amy Patton for production on both ends of the floor. The 5-10 guard is NAU's leading scorer and leading rebounder. She averages 16.5 points per game, which is the top mark in the Big Sky, and her 5.8 caroms per contest ranks in the top 15.
"Northern Arizona has a few players who can definitely create plays and find shots on their own," observed Schuller. "NAU also makes it very difficult for teams to score. We know our shots are not going to come easy. We will have to bring a higher level of focus with every single possession."
As a team, NAU is first in the league in steals per game (10.8). They are also first in turnover margin. On average, NAU's opponents commit 3.4 more turnovers per game than the Lumberjacks themselves.
Eastern's second challenge of the week comes in the form of Weber State, who certainly gave EWU a run for its money in the first meeting of the year. Eastern prevailed in the contest after holding the Wildcats to a dismal 0-of-8 from beyond the arc.
"I thought we did a really nice job defensively against WSU, especially on their perimeter players," said Schuller. "WSU has one of the best three-point shooters in the league in Megan Patterson, but Brianne Ryan especially did a great job of shutting her down. Patterson did not hit a single field goal against us. But we know that is something they will try to correct this time around. They are going to find a way to get her going."
Patterson owns the top mark in the Big Sky for three point field goals made, as she averages 2.7 per game. She is WSU's second-leading scorer behind senior forward Caitlin Anderson. Anderson averages 13.3 points per game and 5.7 rebounds. In the game last Saturday (Feb. 12), Anderson scored 11 points, nine of which came from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Amanda Hughes was also busy in the post, converting 7-of-15 field goals and 5-of-8 free throws.
"One thing we absolutely have to do better this week is defend the post," said Schuller. "Their bigs got to the line too many times and had too many easy shots. That will be the focus in practice this week, keeping the ball out of their hands."
Saturday's game will be the 69th meeting in history between the Eagles and Wildcats. WSU leads the all-time series, 44-24, but Eastern has won the last five in a row. Since Schuller took over the reins of the EWU women's program in the 2001-02 season, the Eags have gone 4-5 when playing Weber State at Reese Court.
Eagle Fast Breaks
Top Three in Sky Statistics: Eastern is the best offensive rebounding team in the league with 16.2 offensive boards per game. The Eags are third in scoring offense (69.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.730) and rebounding margin (+2.0). Eastern is also among the top three is several categories when looking at league-only statistics. EWU boasts the highest free throw percentage in the Big Sky at 75.8, and the second-best scoring average (72.8 ppg) and offensive rebounding average (15.1/game).
Eastern's Keys to Success: Come Out Hot - The Eagles are 8-3 this season in games they are leading at the half. The team is 1-11 when they are trailing at intermission. Focus on Efficiency - Eastern is 8-2 in games where it shoots a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. EWU has lost 12 of the 13 games in which its opponent shoots a higher field goal percentage Hold em' to 40 - The magic number for Eastern's defense should be 40, or rather, less than 40. The Eagles have won eight of nine games in which its opponent shoots less than 40 percent from the field. When the opposition manages 40 percent or higher, EWU is 1-13.
Distributing the Wealth: Eastern is one of only two teams in the Big Sky to have at least four players with double-digit scoring averages (Montana State has five). Brianne Ryan leads the way for EWU at 14.0, followed by Tatjana Sparavalo (11.9, Chene Cooper (10.9) and Julie Piper (10.8).
Perils from the Perimeter: In its most recent outing against Weber State, Eastern turned in its best effort, both offensively and defensively, from three-point range. The Eagles hit 8-of-17 treys, while holding the Wildcats to 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. However, prior to that game, Eastern had struggled throughout the entire season on both ends of the floor. As a team, Eastern ranks eighth in the Big Sky in three-point field goal pct., and ninth in three-point field goal pct. defense. EWU's opponents are knocking down 36 percent (142-400) of its perimeter shots, while the Eagles themselves make only 30 percent (137-451) of their long-range baskets.
INDIVDUAL (for probable starting five)
Chene Cooper is averaging 5.5 assists per game, which ranks 22nd in Division I women's basketball and second in the Big Sky (first in league-only statistics). Her assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9 (116-60) is also atop rankings. Cooper is the only player in the league to have had 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 10+ assists at least once this season.
Brianne Ryan has scored in double digits in 20 of 23 games this season, including the last 12 in a row, which makes her one of only three players in the Big Sky have a double-digit scoring streak of 12 or more games. Ryan turned in the single-best offensive performance of all players in league with 33 points against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. In conference only statistics, Ryan leads the league in scoring at 17.6 ppg. She is shooting 48 percent from the field this season, which ranks 83rd in the nation and fourth overall in the Big Sky Conference.
Chenise Pakootas has averaged 16.0 minutes per game, 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists since becoming part of the starting lineup on Feb. 3 against Northern Colorado. She had a career-high six rebounds against Seattle on Feb. 8.
Julie Piper, the defending Big Sky MVP, leads all seniors in Big Sky in field goal percentage (.472) and free throw percentage (.842). She is also among the top five rebounders in the league with 7.0 boards per game.
Carrie Ojeda has played a pivotal role in Eastern's defensive effort this season. Ojeda is among the top 20 rebounders in the Big Sky, averaging 5.0 caroms per contest. She is fourth in the league and among the top 175 in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 1.2 per game.
Tatjana Sparavalo has scored in double figures in 16 games this season, including nine of the last 11. She is one of only five players in the Big Sky to have at least four double-doubles, and she ranks in the top 15 in the Big Sky in scoring (11.9), field goal pct. (.414), rebounding (5.1) three-point field goal pct. (.404), three point field goals avg. (1.6) and free throw percentage (.809).
Eagle News & Notes
Evans Dominates from Downtown
Senior Kyla Evans hit five three pointers against Seattle on Feb. 8, and in doing so, broke the EWU all-time record for career three pointers made. Evans, who now has 197 treys in her tenure, surpassed Stephanie Ulmer, who owned the previous record of 195 career three pointers made. Ulmer played for head coach Wendy Schuller from 2002-05. Evans had been just three three pointers away from the record for more than a month, but when a chronic back injury flared up just before the start of conference play, she was forced to miss eight games in a row from Jan. 13 - Feb. 5. The untimely hiatus didn't seem to affect the senior though, as she turned in the best performance of her season in her first game back on Feb. 8. She went 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. Evans is also one of only four active players in the Big Sky who has 150+ career three-pointers and the only current Eagle who appears in the Big Sky record book, as she is sixth in career three pointers (197) and tied for 16th in career three-point field goal percentage (.383).
Piper Cracks Top 10
This season, senior Julie Piper has moved into the top 10 in the EWU career record book in six different categories. In EWU's game against ISU on Feb. 5, Piper became one of the top 10 scorers in Eastern history. She is now ninth on the points scored list with 1,118 career points, and tied for 10th in field goals made with 438. Piper is eight in rebounding with 724 career boards, fifth in free throws made (239) and sixth in free throws attempted (328). She is also tied for 10th in career games played, having appeared in 112 games throughout her four years.
Freshmen Earn Starting Nods
For the first time in their careers, freshmen Chenise Pakootas and Aubrey Ashenfelter earned starting nods in EWU's games against UNC (Feb. 3) and ISU (Feb. 5). Pakootas, a 5-10 guard from Inchelium, Wash., started both contests for the Eagles, while Ashenfelter was on the floor to start the game against Idaho State. Ashenfelter, a 6-0 guard from Portland, Ore., played a career-high 31 minutes against the Bengals. She finished with 11 points, which included two clutch three pointers. She also had three assists and three steals. Pakootas averaged 22.0 minutes per game over the weekend. She had a career-high five assists against UNC, while also chipping in seven points.
Ojeda Turns it On
Carrie Ojeda recorded her first-career double-double on Jan. 27 against Portland State. She had 11 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds in EWU's narrow 77-70 loss to the Vikings. Both were career highs for the sophomore forward. She is now one of five Eagles to register at least one double-double in 2010-11. Ojeda is also in the top five shot blockers in the Big Sky and top 175 in the nation, averaging 1.2 blocks per contest.
Coop Climbing the Charts
Just a junior, Chene Cooper has already cracked the top 10 list in two categories of the EWU career record book. Cooper has 153 total steals thus far in her career, which is third in the EWU record book. Fifty-seven of those steals came last season, which was the seventh-best single-season performance in Eastern history. She already has 49 in the current 2010-11 campaign. Coop has 285 total assists in her career, which ranks ninth in the record book. She has had two games this season with 10+ assists, including a career-high 14 against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. That passing performance was the best turned in by any player in the Big Sky this season.
Sparavalo Sizzles Off the Bench
Eastern's invaluable "sixth man," Tatjana Sparavalo, has scored in double figures in 16 games this season, including nine of the last 11. She is currently Eastern's second-leading scorer with 11.9 points per game, which she has earned in 453 minutes off the bench. She is one of only five players to have registered four or more double-doubles this season. She tied her career high scoring mark with 24 points in Eastern's narrow 75-68 loss at Northern Colorado. She had four three pointers in that contest.
Piper Rules Big Sky's Senior Class
Julie Piper has proved to be the most efficient senior shooter in the Big Sky Conference at this point in the season, as she owns the top mark for all seniors in the league in field goal percentage (.472) and free throw percentage (.842). Piper also has the most career rebounds (724) of all active players in the Big Sky, and is one of seven active players to have 1,000+ points in her career. Piper hit the 1,000-point mark this season, and now has 1,118 tallies in her career.
Ryan Delivers Top Offensive Performance in Big Sky
Junior Brianne Ryan poured in a career-high 33 points against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. She converted 14-of-18 shot from the field, which is also a career high in field goals made for the junior. Her 33 tallies was only five shy of the EWU school record for points in a single game, held by Vanessa Jones (1989-1991), who scored 38 against Lewis-Clark on Dec. 5, 1990. It is also the single-best offensive performance, in terms of points and field goals made, for any player in the Big Sky this season. Ryan has scored in double digits in all but three of Eastern's contests this year, including the last 10 in a row.
One Night, Two Career Highs for Coop
Junior Chene Cooper had a career night in Eastern's 75-67 win over UC Irvine on Dec. 15 and in EWU's 73-44 rout of Saint Martin's on Dec. 11. The five-foot point guard scored 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting against the Anteaters, and also pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds in the contest. Her previous career highs in those categories were 23 points and eight rebounds.
Freshman Aubrey Ashenfelter has seen minutes in every game of the 2010-11 season. As Eastern's backup point guard, she averages 16.2 minutes per game. A product of Southridge High School in Portland, Ore., Ashenfelter averages 3.3 points per game for Eastern and has dished out 38 assists, the second-most on the team. Freshman Chenise Pakootas, a native of Inchelium, Wash., has appeared in 16 of 23 games this season, and has earned a starting nod in the last four-consecutive games. Pakootas had to step up to help fill the shoes of injured players Breauna Russell and Kyla Evans (who have now both returned to the lineup after sitting for more than a month). Pakootas averages 11.1 minutes, 3.4 points, and 1.9 rebounds per game. Freshman Laura Hughes, who came to Eastern from Richland, Wash., has also been an important player off the bench this season. As Eastern's tallest player at 6-2, Hughes provides depth in the post, averaging 2.0 rebounds per game and 3.1 points. She has played 161 total minutes this season, including a career-high 22 against national-powerhouse Gonzaga on Dec. 3.
The 2010-11 Eastern Washington women's basketball team boasts one of the most versatile squads in the league. In Eastern's 23 games thus far in the season, six different players have led the team in scoring. The same depth is evident on the defensive end, as seven different Eagles have led in both rebounding and steals this year. EWU has four players with double-digit scoring averages, and three players who average five or more rebounds per game. Each class (Fr., So., Jr., Sr.) is represented in the aforementioned statistics.
Julie Piper has not missed a single game since the first time she stepped on the court as a freshman in 2007. She played in all 29 games during her rookie season, all 29 as a sophomore in 2008-09 and all 31 last year, as well as all 23 of the current season. She has started 105 of those 112 games. Besides her consistent court presence, Piper has scored at least two points in every game since Feb. 14, 2009 (0 vs. ISU), and has had at least two rebounds in every game since Nov. 28. 2008 (2 vs. UNLV). This season, Piper has had 13 double-digit scoring outings, and two of 20 or more points.
Ryan Earns First Scholar-Athlete Honors of 2011
Junior Brianne Ryan was selected by the EWU athletic department as the Female Scholar-Athlete Award recipient for the month of January. Ryan, a product of Lynden Christian High School in Lynden, Wash., has a 3.20 GPA in interdisciplinary studies. Ryan poured in a career-high 33 points against Sacramento State on a blistering .778 percentage from the field. She was 9-of-9 to open the contest, and missed only one shot total in the first half. Ryan also contributed six rebounds and three assists in that contest. Ryan led the Eagles in scoring in five of Eastern's seven games during the month of January. She averaged 20.3 points per game on 60 percent shooting and had the second-most assists on the team with 14. She also averaged 4.6 boards per game during the month. Ryan has started and played in all 21 games this season, averaging 32.1 minutes per game. She has scored in double-digits in 18 of those 21 games, including the last 10 in a row; a streak earned by only two other players in the Big Sky Conference. In league-only statistics, she leads the Big Sky with 18.4 points per game, and her field goal percentage of .542 is fourth overall in the conference.
Sparavalo Earns December Scholar-Athlete Honors
Senior Tatjana Sparavalo was selected as EWU's Female Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December. Sparavalo, a native of Novi Sad, Serbia, earned her bachelor's degree from Eastern in just three years. With a 3.62 cumulative GPA, she graduated cum laude in 2010 with a degree in business administration. She is currently working on her master's in business at EWU. One of three seniors on the 2010-11 squad, Sparavalo has provided incredible leadership on and off the court. She serves as Eastern's invaluable "sixth man," averaging 19.9 minutes off the bench. She is the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the team with 12.2 points and 5.6 caroms per contest. Sparavalo has also made the most three pointers of any player on the EWU roster (31). Eleven of her 31 treys came in the month of December, and her percentage in the six games on the month was an even .500. Beyond her athletic contributions, Sparavalo has been named to the Big Sky All-Academic team for three consecutive years.
Piper Named to Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team
Julie Piper was selected as one of five standout players for the 24th Annual Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team. Piper averaged 15.0 points per game in the two games played in Boulder, Colo., on Nov. 26 and 27. She shot an impressive 52 percent from the field and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. With those eight made free throws over the weekend, she moved into the top 10 in the Eastern record book for career free throws made. Piper registered her first double-double of the season against the Ramblers with 20 points and 13 rebounds. She was 7-of-15 from the field, and knocked down all six of her attempts from the charity stripe. She also scored in double digits against the Purple Aces, tallying 10 points of 4-of-6 shooting. Although her time on the floor was limited due to foul trouble, she added six rebounds and two steals in just 15 minutes.
Piper Selected as Candidate for Lowe's Senior CLASS Award
EWU senior forward Julie Piper was selected as one of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as a NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The 2011 women's candidate class includes five players who were CoSIDA Academic All-Americans last year, 22 student-athletes with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, four players who participated in the 2010 Women's Final Four and 15 players on the preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award.
Current Eagle Brianne Ryan is the daughter of one of the all-time greats in the Eastern Washington Women's Basketball program, Neil Ryan (formerly Neil Ann Massie). Neil Ryan played basketball for EWU from 1979-82, and is the third-leading rebounder in school history with 1,008 career rebounds. Her career rebounding average of 8.47 ranks fourth in the EWU record book, while her 346 rebounds in the 1979 season is the fourth-best single season performance in program history. She is also one of the all-time leading scorers, as her 1,190 career points ranks seventh overall in the EWU record book. She ranks sixth in career field goals made (509) and tenth in field goals attempted (1,001). EWU's relationship with the Ryan family does not stop there. Head coach Wendy Schuller recently signed Brianne's younger sister and Neil's youngest daughter, Kayleigh, to a national letter of intent to play basketball at Eastern starting in the 2011-12 school year.
Eagles Sign Four for 2011-12 Season
Four high school seniors from the state of Washington have signed national letters of intent to play basketball at Eastern Washington University. The members of the 2011 recruiting class include 5-foot-1 point guard Kylie Huerta from Kentwood High School, 5-11 guard Kayleigh Ryan from Lynden Christian High School, 6-0 forward Melissa Williams from Camas High School in Vancouver and 5-10 shooting guard Hayley Hodgins from Chiawana High School in Pasco. Huerta was ranked among the top 110 point guards in the nation according to ESPN Hoopgurlz.com, and earned South Puget Sound League North Division Co-MVP honors in 2010 after leading the league in points per game (18.9) and steals (57). Ryan, sister of current Eagle, Brianne Ryan, is a dual-sport athlete, earning letters in basketball and volleyball at Lynden Christian. As a junior on the basketball team, she averaged nine points, eight rebounds and 4.7 assists per game for the Lyncs. Williams was selected as the 2010 Greater St. Helen's League Player of the Year and the Columbian's All-Region Player of the Year. She led her team to the Class 3A District Championship in 2010, averaging 16 points per game throughout the year. Hodgins was a member of the Columbia Basin Big Nine Cascaded Division first-team in 2010 and was twice named the Tri-City Herald Athlete of the Week. Hodgins was the league's leading scorer during her junior year, averaging 18.4 points per game. She shot 46 percent from three-point range, which was also the best in the league.
Accomplishments Under Schuller
- The 2009-10 squad won the school's first-ever Big Sky Conference regular-season title and hosted the league tournament for the first time in school history.
- The 2009-10 Eagles advanced to the Women's National Invitation Tournament, which marked the first national postseason appearance for EWU since 1987.
- Eastern earned an overall record of 19-12 and conference record of 12-4 in 2009-10, which were the best recorded by an EWU team since the 1984-35 season.
- Julie Piper was named 2010 Big Sky Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player in program history to earn such an honor.
- Schuller was selected as the 2010 Big Sky Coach of the Year. She has collected 113 wins at EWU, which is the second-most victories in school history.
- The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals in six of Schuller's nine years at the helm of the program (2002-06, 2010).
- For the past nine-consecutive seasons, Eastern has earned a spot on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll -- something achieved by only one other team in Division I history (Indiana State). Eastern has been among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those nine years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.
- Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second-team honors -- Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
- Kyla Evans received ESPN The Magazine All-District VIII honors in 2009.
- The past nine seasons, 74 players have earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, the most in the league.