Senior captain ties career-high with 33 points, as Eastern wins sixth-straight Big Sky game
For the fourth time this season, senior Brianne Ryan poured in 30+ points to lead her team to another Big Sky victory. Behind her career-high-tying 33 points, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team rolled past Weber State, 78-45, on Thursday night (Feb. 9) at Reese Court.
The win was Eastern's sixth-straight in conference, and was its largest margin of victory this season against a Division I team. It was also Weber State's most lopsided Big Sky loss since February 1998.
Eastern improves to 16-9 overall and 10-2 in the Big Sky. The Eagles have already clinched a bid to the 2012 Big Sky Conference Championship, held March 8-10 at the site of the regular-season champion. Eastern currently sits in second in the league standings, just a half game behind Idaho State (16-8, 10-1). The Eagles and Bengals will face-off in the final two games of the season on Feb. 25 in Cheney and Mar. 3 in Pocatello, Idaho.
"I was pleased with our effort tonight," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "I thought we played hard and came out as the aggressor. At shoot-around, I felt like we were primed and ready to go, and that's how we played from the first minute."
The Eagles certainly got off to a hot start, scoring the first six points of the game - all of which came off hand of senior Chene Cooper. Eastern built that lead to double-digits (16-6) by the 13-minute mark and never looked back. The Eagles went into the break with a commanding 40-21 edge.
Their largest lead of the game was 34 points (70-36) with 6:27 remaining in the second half.
Ryan, the reigning Big Sky Player of the Week, exited the game with just under five minutes to play. She finished with a season-high 13 made field goals on 20 attempts, which included an almost perfect 5-of-6 effort from the 3-point range. She also contributed five rebounds, two assists and five steals.
"She shot well tonight," said Schuller on the senior's performance. "I thought our team did a good job looking for her, but she was finding ways to score in transition and by attacking the rim. It's nice to have a player who can score in so many ways."
In addition to the hot shooting, Eastern's defense was suffocating throughout the contest. The Eagles scored 22 points off 18 Weber State turnovers, 14 of which were steals. They outscored the Wildcats 16-2 in fast-break points.
"Defensively, we did a really good job and stuck to the game plan," said Schuller. "We talked about running the floor and getting into transition as much as possible. We pushed the ball; we pushed the tempo; we wore them down."
After scoring the team's first eight points on the night, Cooper finished with 11 tallies to go along with six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
"Coop just gets us going; it's as simple as that," said Schuller. "I thought tonight she did a great job running hard, and she had everyone running hard alongside her. In the first half, she did a nice job being disruptive defensively, flying around stealing and rebounding. It was really nice to see."
Sophomore Aubrey Ashenfelter scored 13 points on a 5-of-9 effort from the field. She also tied career-highs in rebounds (6) and steals (4).
"Aubrey has done a really nice job for us all year," said Schuller. "She steps up when we need her to score and plays great defense. She fills every role she's asked of and does a great job. She is a very valuable player to us."
Eastern will have a week off before its next Big Sky Conference game at Northern Colorado on Thursday (Feb. 16). Tipoff from the Butler-Hancock Pavilion in Greeley, Colo., is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. PST.