Eagles Take Care of Eastern Oregon, 68-55

Ryan and Ojeda combine for 43 points, while Cooper dishes out 12 assists to lead Eastern to victory against Mountaineers

After a grueling five-game road swing, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team returned to Reese Court for its first home game in nearly three weeks against the Mountaineers of Eastern Oregon. The Eagles defeated EOU, 68-55, on Monday (Dec. 12) in Cheney, Wash., to improve to 5-5 on the season.

Eastern opened the game on a 15-2 run, with nine of those 15 points coming from senior captain Brianne Ryan. The Eagles never trailed in the contest, but Eastern Oregon (9-3) was never quite out of it.

Midway through the second half, Eastern had built its largest lead of the contest at 59-39. But the Moutaineers, out of the NAIA's Cascade Collegiate Conference, went on an 11-0 run to pull with nine at the 6:54 mark.

Eastern Washington freshman Melissa Williams scored the next three points to put EWU back up by 12 with just under six minutes to go. The Eagles managed to hold onto that double-digit lead the rest of the way.

"It was kind of an ugly game," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Coop [Chene Cooper] and Carrie played well for us, but as a team, I just don't think we played with the same energy and intensity that we have had most other nights. But give Eastern Oregon credit, they are a very good basketball team."

Eastern's senior point guard Chene Cooper finished the game with a season-high 12 assists and zero turnovers - the best passing performance of any player in the Big Sky this season. Cooper also had six points, five rebounds and three steals.

"Coop got us going when we needed it tonight," said Schuller. "Twelve assists and no turnovers - what more can you ask for as a coach?"

Ojeda, who was coming off a career-high 16 points in EWU's narrow loss to Gonzaga on Friday, posted a new career-high of 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, while also adding eight rebounds.

"Carrie had a really nice week for us," complimented Schuller. "Her teammates are doing a great job of getting her the ball. It's good to get that kind of production from her."

Ryan finished with a game-high 24 points on 50 percent shooting, which marked her 10th-consecutive double-digit outing, and fifth with 20 or more. The senior from Lynden, Wash., also had six rebounds and two steals. She is currently among the top 50 scorers in the nation, averaging 18.8 points per game.

Williams contributed seven points and tied her career-high in rebounds with eight.

As a team, Eastern shot 42.9 percent from the field, despite converting just 2-of-13 3-pointers. The Eagles made exactly 50 percent of its 2-point field goal attempts.

Eastern finished with a 38-18 advantage in points in the paint and led the Mountaineers in fast-break tallies, 14-2. The Eagles also had 10 steals, compared to just three for EOU.

Eastern will stay at home for its next contest against Boise State on Saturday (Dec. 17). Tipoff at Reese Court is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.

News & Notes

Toughest Schedule in the Sky - Eastern Washington has earned the highest RPI ranking among all teams in the Big Sky Conference. According to the Collegiate Basketball News Women's RPI Report relseased Dec. 12, EWU ranks 63rd in the nation, while its strength of schedule is eighth among 335 ranked schools. Only one other Big Sky program was ranked in the top 100 in the RPI, and that was Idaho State at No. 88. In terms of strength of schedule, ISU ranks 98th - the only other team in the top 100. Eastern has five opponents on its schedule this year that advanced to national postseason tournaments a year ago. The average RPI ranking of Eastern's 2011-12 opponents is 14.

Coop Puts Up National Numbers - Eastern's senior point guard Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) ranks among the top 10 in the nation in assists. As of Dec. 11 when the latest NCAA statiscal rankings were released, the 5-0 point guard was averaging 6.1 assists per game, which is 10th-best among all Division I women's basketball players in the country. Cooper leads the Big Sky in that category by more than two complete assists. The next closest player in the league is averaging 4.4. Cooper also leads the Big Sky in steals, averaging 3.0 per game. That average is among the top 50 nationally, while her assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.2 ranks 32nd.

Coop Closing in on School Record - Senior point guard Chene Cooper is just nine steals away from owning the EWU all-time career steals record. Cooper has tallied 204 total steals at this point in her career - just a few shy of Lisa Comstock, who currently holds the record with 212. Comstock played for EWU from 1982-85. Cooper will most likely break this 27-year old record before the new year. Eastern has four games remaining in 2011, and with an average of 3.0 steals per game this season, Coop could expect to see her name at the top of the record book before 2012 hits. She also appears in the Big Sky record book for all-time career steals, ranking 19th in Big Sky history. Besides her stellar steals numbers, Cooper is also climbing the charts for assists, as she currently ranks fifth all-time at EWU with 384 career assists. She has the most assists of any active player in the Big Sky by more than 70.

Ryan Reaches 1,000 - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) scored her 1,000th career point against  Arizona State on Dec. 2. Ryan is the only active Eagle to have 1,000+ points in her career, and one of only one of four in the Big Sky Conference. The 5-11 guard has now tallied 1,061 points in her tenure, with 188 already in this young 2011-12 season. She is just 44 points away from breaking into the top 10 all-time scorers list at Eastern Washington.

Ojeda Has Back-to-Back Career-Highs - Eastern's junior center Carrie Ojeda posted career-high scoring numbers in back-to-back games against Gonzaga (Dec. 9) and Eastern Oregon (Dec. 12). She tallied 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting against the Zags, which was four more than her previous carere high of 12, which she had set in this year's season opener. Three days later, she topped it again with 19 points on an 8-of-12 performance from the field against the Mountaineers. Ojeda is currently the third-leading scorer on the team, averaging 9.2 per game.

Eagles Impress in Near Upset of Cross-Town Rival Gonzaga - The Eastern Washington University women's basketball was just moments away from pulling off a truly inspiring upset of national power and cross-town rival Gonzaga on Dec. 9 at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. After completely controlling the first half of the game, the Eagles held on to a one-point lead (69-68) with under a minute remaining. An Eagle rebounding foul sent Naismith Trophy candidate Kayla Standish to the line  with 38 ticks left on the clock. The 6-2 forward converted both free throws to give GU a narrow 70-69 edge. On Eastern's next possession, sophomore Chenise Pakootas earned a trip to the line for a chance to tie it up and possibly reclaim the lead, but she missed the front end of her one-and-one, and Standish quickly snatched the rebound. Eastern was forced to put Standish on the line again. She made her first shot, but missed the second to keep the game within a single field goal. But in a fierce battle for the rebound, GU's sophomore guard Haiden Palmer emerged with the ball.  She was then fouled, and the mishap occurred when she missed her second free throw, but corralled the offensive board. The Bulldogs went on to make three of their next four shots from the charity stripe to extend their lead to six with nine seconds left to play. Eastern tried to keep the game alive with a desperation three, but the shot was off the mark and Gonzaga came down with the rebound as time expired. Despite being the better team for much of the night, the Eagles returned to Cheney with a heartbreaking 75-69 loss. Gonzaga, the seven-time defending WCC champion, had been in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll for the first three weeks of the 2011-12 season.

Ryan on a Roll - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) has scored in double figures in each of Eastern's first 10 games of the season, which is currently the longest double-digit scoring streak in the Big Sky. She has had five games with 20+ points, and one with 33. With an 18.8 points per game average, Ryan currently ranks second in the Big Sky in scoring, and among the top 50 in the nation. She is averaging 2.2 3-pointers per game, which ranks fourth overall in the Big Sky and 70th nationally. She converted a career-high of six 3-pointers against Portland (Nov. 29), and has had at least one in nine of 10 games this season.

Keys to a Win - So far this season, there are two glaring statistics to an Eastern Washington win: field goal percentage and halftime score. The Eagles are 5-1 this year when leading at the half, and 5-1 when shooting above 40 percent from the field. When EWU has trailed at halftime, the team is 0-4. And the same goes for shooting percentage. Every time the Eagles convert less than 40 percent of their shots, regardless of what the opponent does, they have lost the game.

Coop Claims All-Tournament Honors - Senior point guard Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) was named to the ASU Classic All-Tournament Team for her efforts in Eastern's two games in Tempe, Ariz., Dec 2-3. In the two games combined, Cooper averaged a combined 12.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals. Cooper turned in one of her best performances of the season against Arkansas State, with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the line. She also had  four assists and three steals.

Eastern Celebrates Big Win in the Rose City - On Nov. 29, Eastern Washington defeated non-conference rival Portland, 76-60, for its first road win of the 2011-12 season. The Eagles shot a season-high 47.5 percent from the field, while knocking down a season-high nine 3-pointers. Eastern held a 36-32 advantage on the glass and forced 20 turnovers, which they converted into 27 points on the other end. To make this victory any sweeter, prior to facing Eastern, Portland had won back-to-back games against two other Big Sky schools in Portland State and Montana, which were the teams picked one and two in this year's  Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll. Eastern Washington was selected seventh. Although it was not a head-to-head battle against its conference foes, EWU showed it can certainly measure up with the top dogs in the Big Sky.

Ryan Lays Claim to Big Sky POW - For the first time in her already decorated career, senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) was selected as the Big Sky Player of the Week for games played Nov. 14 - Nov. 20. Ryan had a remarkable performance on both ends of the floor to lead Eastern to a 68-57 victory over San Diego (Nov. 17). Her all-around effort was highlighted by 30 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the floor. She scored nearly half Eastern's total points in the game to become the first player in the Big Sky this season to reach the 30-point scoring mark. Ryan's effort against USD was just three points shy of her career-high of 33, which she set last year versus Sacramento State on 14-of-18 shooting. In addition putting points on the score board, Ryan also led all players on the glass with nine rebounds, and had three assists, one steal and one block, while playing a game-high 38 minutes against the Toreros.

Pakootas Making an Impact - Sophomore Chenise Pakootas has appeared in all 10 games for EWU this season, averaging 15.0 minutes per game. She is fifth on the team in scoring and ranks among the top 15 in the Big Sky in terms of 3-point shooters, as she averages 1.3 per game on 41 percent. She hit at least on 3-pointer in the first nine games of the season. Pakootas turned in a flawless offensive performance in Eastern's 68-57 victory against San Diego (Nov. 17), as she was 3-of-3 from the field and converted 2-of-2 free throws.

Freshmen on the Floor - Eastern has two freshmen this season who are expected to play significant roles in their rookie seasons. Melissa Williams, a 6-1 forward, has earned a spot in Eastern's starting lineup. The Camas, Wash., native leads the team in defensive rebounding, averaging 3.8 per game. She has had four or more total rebounds in six of 10 games this year, including a career-high eight on three different occassions. Point guard Kylie Huerta has averaged 10.5 minutes in Eastern's first five games of the season, and has tallied 16 assists and five steals. Huerta was an Associated Press 4A All-State Honorable Mention and two-time South Puget Sound League North Division Player of the Year out of Kentwood High School, which is the same school that produced Gonzaga legend and current WNBA star Courtney Vandersloot, as well as Nebraska standout/two-time All-Big 12 honoree, Lindsey Moore. Kentwood is also the alma-mater of EWU men's basketball legend, Rodney Stuckey.

One Night, Three Career-Highs  - In Eastern's season opener against Corban (Nov. 11), three different Eagles posted career-high scoring numbers - and ironically, those numbers were the same for each player. Junior Carrie Ojeda and sophomores Laura Hughes and Chenise Pakootas all had 12 tallies against the Warriors. Ojeda's previous career high was 11 points, while Hughes and Pakootas' was 10. And although it wasn't a career-high, it should be noted that senior Brianne Ryan also scored 12 points against Corban.

Big Numbers for 2011-12 Campaign- At 17 players deep, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team begins the 2011-12 season with the biggest roster in head coach Wendy Schuller's 11-year tenure. This roster includes three returning starters from 2010-11, six other returning letterwinners, two returning redshirts, one non-lettering squad member, one transfer and four freshmen.

Building Cred in the Big Sky - The Eagles are coming off their second-straight postseason appearance. In 2010, Eastern earned an automatic bid to the Big Sky Conference semifinals after winning the regular-season title. In last year's Big Sky tourney, Eastern advanced the semis again after a 77-68 victory against Montana State in the quarterfinal round, which actually marked the first postseason win for EWU since the 2004 campaign. Eastern has earned 20 Big Sky Conference wins over the past two years, which is more than the Eagles had in the previous four seasons combined. In 2009-10, EWU captured the school's first-ever Big Sky regular-season title with a 12-4 league record.

Academic Excellence - In the past 10 seasons, Eastern Washington women's basketball players have been honored 81 times on the Big Sky All-Academic list, which is the most for any women's basketball team in the league. The Eagles have also been recognized on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for nine of the past 10 seasons. Eastern was among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those 10 years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.

Baby Bonanza - Three of Eastern's four coaches have all had a baby in the last 18 months! Coach Schuller and her husband, Mark, had their third child, Brandon, in June 2010. Assistant coach Alison Hewa had her first child, Hannah, last January, and just a few months after arriving on the EWU campus, assistant coach Steve Lowe welcomed his first child, Harper (born Sept. 25, 2011).

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