Eastern looking for first road win against flourishing Pilots
For the second-straight outing, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will play a team out of the West Coast Conference. The Eagles travel to the Rose City on Tuesday (Nov. 29) to take on Portland at 5 p.m. Pacific time in the Chiles Center.
Eastern (2-3) is coming off a 77-58 loss at BYU, which became a member of the WCC just this season. Eastern will also face Gonzaga on Dec. 9 to close out a current five-game road swing.
In its last two outings, Eastern has been a competitive force, but couldn't quite hold up against two teams with more size and athleticism in the post. The Eagles performed well on the perimeter, shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, but EWU's overall field goal percentage was less than favorable at 34.1.
The Eags will look to turn it around in the mid-week matchup against the familiar Portland Pilots. UP does not have any players over 6-foot-3, compared to Oregon State and BYU, who both had 6-7 centers. But as a team, Portland's defense has been a major factor in its 5-2 record to open the 2011-12 campaign.
The Pilots will enter Tuesday's contest on a three-game winning streak, two of which were against Big Sky schools. Last weekend, UP won back-to-back games against Portland State and Montana. The margin of victory in both contests was single digits, but Portland's defensive prowess proved to be the key.
The Pilots held PSU and UM to a combined 30.8 field goal percentage, while also out-rebounding the Vikings and Grizzlies, 91-72. UP also had 10 steals against each team.
Last season, when EWU and Portland met at Reese Court, the Pilots held Eastern to 34 percent shooting, while earning a considerable 53-31 advantage on the glass.
Portland returns three starters from the 2010-11 squad that upended EWU, 77-58. Among those returning starters is senior forward Nathalie Day, who averages 19.7 points per game - almost the exact same as EWU's leading scorer, Brianne Ryan, who contributes 19.4. Day also averages a team-leading 8.3 rebounds.
Portland's starting point guard, ReZina TecleMariam, averages five assists per game and 2.7 steals. Including TecleMariam, four players for UP have already tallied double-digit steals this year.
With the exception of just three seasons, Eastern and Portland have met every year since 1985-86. The Eagles lead the all-time series 13-9, but UP has won four of the last five. Eastern's most recent win against UP was at the Chiles Center though - a 72-64 victory in the 2009-10 season opener.
News & Notes
Coaching Connection - In Eastern's game this Tuesday against Portland, the Pilots may have a slight edge in scouting, as one of their assistant coaches is quite familiar with the Eagle program. Cheryl Sorenson, who coached at EWU from 2007-10, is now an assistant for the Portland women's basketball program. Sorenson, a native of Milwaukie, Ore., left EWU to return to her native state at the end of last season. She was replaced by Steve Lowe, who had actually worked under Sorenson in his first collegiate coaching position at Bellevue Community College.
Ryan on a Roll - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) has scored in double figures in each of Eastern's first five games of the season, and she has had three-consecutive games with 20+ points. With a 19.4 points per game average, Ryan currently ranks No. 1 in the Big Sky in scoring, and among the top 40 in the nation.
Coop Putting up National Numbers - After the first three weeks of the season, senior Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) ranks among the top 25 in the nation in assists. The 5-0 point guard is averaging 5.8 assists per game, which also ranks No. 1 in the Big Sky Conference. Cooper's 2.4 steals per game ranks second in the league and 160th among all Division I athletes. With these numbers, Cooper is climbing up the EWU career record book. She currently ranks seventh in assists with 346, and third all-time in steals with 186.
Ryan Lays Claim to Big Sky POW - For the first time in her already decorated career, senior Brianne Ryan 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, which included three 3-pointers. 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 to her offensive contributions, Ryan also led all players on the glass with nine rebounds. She also had three assists, one steal and one block, while playing a game-high 38 minutes against the Toreros.
Pakootas Perfect Against Toreros - Sophomore Chenise Pakootas scored 10 points on flawless shooting in Eastern's most recent outing against San Diego (Nov. 17). Pakootas hit 3-of-3 from the field, which included two 3-pointers and was 2-of-2 from the charity stripe. Pakootas has scored in double figures in two of Eastern's first four games of the season.
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 agaisnt Corban.
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 rebounding and is among the top 15 in the big Sky Conference, averaging 6.0 per game. Point guard Kylie Huerta has aveaged 12.0 minutes in Eastern's first four games of the season, and has tallied seven assists and three 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.
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 agaisnt 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).