February 21, 2011

Cooper Lays Claim to Big Sky POW Honors

Junior point guard recognized for all-around effort in Eastern's back-to-back conference victories

Chene Cooper of the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team was selected as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for games played Feb. 14 – Feb. 20, it was announced Monday by the league office. This is the first weekly honor for the junior point guard, and the first for Eastern Washington in the 2010-11 season.

Cooper, a 2008 graduate of Lakes High School in Puyallup, Wash., led the Eagles to an important pair of conference victories against Northern Arizona and Weber State last week. With the sweep at home, Eastern clinched a berth to the 2011 Big Sky Conference tournament, held March 10-12 at the site of the regular-season champion. EWU is currently in sixth place in the BSC standings with a 7-5 record. The Eagles are 11-14 overall.

"Coop had a great week for us," applauded EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "It was a culmination of a lot of things she has done well all year. It is certainly a well-deserved honor, and we were glad to finally see one of our players win it."

Cooper averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists on the week. She shot 42 percent from the field, and made 17-of-20 free throws for 85 percent shooting from the line.  

Against the Lumberjacks , Cooper scored a game-high 23 points - just one shy of her career high. She also had six rebounds, five assists and two steals. She hit two three-pointers in the contest, the second one a clutch shot from the top of the key that put EWU up by one point (55-54) with just under a minute remaining. Cooper went on to make 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory for EWU.

"When you have a point guard who has the ability to score, it really opens things up for the other players as well," said Schuller. "She is incredibly quick and can score at will, but she is also a great passer, and that makes everyone else on the floor better."

In Eastern's win over Weber State, Cooper scored 18 points, another game high, and had four rebounds, seven assists and two steals. She hit 8-of-10 free throws, and had just two turnovers in 33 minutes on the court.

Cooper is averaging 5.5 assists per game this season, which ranks 20th in the nation. Her assist/turnover ratio of 1.86 (138-74) is among the top 40 in Division I women's basketball, and is the best mark in the Big Sky.  She has 138 total assists this year, which is among the top 10 single-season performances in school history, and her career total of 297 ranks ninth in the EWU record book.

She is the only player in the Big Sky who has had 20+ points, 10+ rebound and 10+ assists at least once this season. Including her 23 points against NAU this week, Cooper has had three games with 20 or more tallies and two with 10 or more assists this season.

The Eagles will return to action this week to face the Montana schools for the first time in the 2010-11 campaign. EWU will travel to Montana State on Thursday (Feb. 24) and Montana on Saturday (Feb. 26).  The Bobcats and Grizzlies have also already earned bids to the conference tournament. MSU and UM are is tied for second in the league standings, both with a 9-3 record.

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