Pair of senior captains garner weekly honors after leading EWU in back-to-back wins at Montana and Montana State
Senior point guard Chene Cooper of the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team was selected by the conference office as the Big Sky Player of the Week, while fellow senior Brianne Ryan was honored with the same award by College Sports Madness.
Both Cooper and Ryan played instrumental roles in helping their team capture EWU's first sweep of the Montana road trip since becoming a member of Division I athletics. Eastern celebrated a 67-57 win at Montana on Thursday (Jan. 26) and then followed it up with a 66-52 victory at Montana State on Saturday (Jan. 28).
"The senior class we have this year has made such a huge impact on the success of our program, and the rise of our program over the last couple of years," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Since the day they stepped on campus, Coop and Ryan have in a lot of ways changed the culture of how we play and who we are as a team. They are great basketball players and great people. To see them having the kind of senior season they're having is really exciting. We are obviously happy they are playing so well right now, but for who they are as people, it is just really well deserved."
Cooper, who was honored as the Big Sky POW for the first time this season and second time in her career, averaged 15.5 points, 8.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds on the week. She also reached a notable career milestone, scoring her 1,000th career point on Saturday in Bozeman.
In Eastern's first contest against perennial power Montana, Cooper was sensational with a game-high 18 points, nine assists and only one turnover in 37 minutes on the floor. The 5-foot-0 point guard hit 5-of-8 field goal attempts, including two-straight jumpers that kept Montana at bay after it had made back-to-back 3-pointers with less than five minutes to play. Cooper also converted 7-of-8 free throws in the game, as EWU became the only team in school history to win two years in a row at the notorious Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
The next night against MSU, Cooper flirted again with a double-double, as she finished with 13 points and eight assists, as well as contributing five rebounds and three steals. With her 13 points against the Bobcats, Cooper joined the prestigious 1,000-point club at EWU. She now has 1,005 career tallies, to go along with 476 career assists and a school record 244 steals.
Ryan, who had also reached the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.50 assists in Eastern's wins at Montana and Montana State. On Thursday at Dahlberg, Ryan posted 15 points with two 3-pointers, and had five rebounds, one assist and one block.
Against the Bobcats, Ryan poured in a game-high 22 points on a 9-of-16 effort from the floor, including two more 3-pointers. She was two rebounds shy of a double-double, as she finished with eight on the night. She also had two assists and two steals. Ryan has now had nine 20+ scoring efforts this season – the most of any player in the Big Sky Conference.
In addition to leading her team offensively, Ryan also had the job of guarding Montana State's leading scorer. She held senior guard Katie Bussey, who ranks third in the Big Sky in scoring, to just four points on 2-of-10 from the field.
Eastern, now in sole possession of second place in the Big Sky standings, will host eighth-place Northern Arizona this Thursday (Feb. 2) at Reese Court. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.