Eagles Head to Northern Arizona in Quest of a Rare League Road Sweep
After taking care of Weber State, Eastern looking for fifth-consecutive win over a struggling NAU squad
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball will look to keep its Big Sky winning record intact this Saturday (Jan. 7) when it plays Northern Arizona at the Rolle Activity Center in Flagstaff, Ariz. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:35 p.m. Pacific time.
The Eagles (8-8, 2-1 Big Sky) are coming off a 72-60 win at Weber State on Thursday. If Eastern can come up with another win on Saturday, it would mark just the third time in the last decade EWU has gone 2-0 on a league road trip.
In 2009-10 - the year EWU won the Big Sky regular-season title - the Eagles won back-to-back games at Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. In 2002-03, Eastern won two in a row at NAU and Sac State. The common denominator in all these instances…Northern Arizona.
The Lumberjacks will be especially hungry for a win though, as they enter the game on a five-game losing skid, which includes an 0-3 start to the Big Sky season. However, four of those five losses were on the road.
Prior to losing at home on Thursday to Portland State, Northern Arizona was 5-1 this season at the Rolle Activity Center, with the only loss coming in double overtime to Nebraska.
Last season, when NAU and EWU met in Flagstaff, the Eagles came away with a hard-earned 60-53 victory. The Eagles then made it a regular-season sweep with a 59-54 win against the Lumberjacks in Cheney. Eastern has won four-straight against NAU.
The Eagles and Lumberjacks have had similar offensive output this season, as both teams average just over 66 points per game on 39 percent shooting. Northern Arizona is averaging 5.7 3-pointers per game, while Eastern is just barely behind at 5.4. Both teams are in the top three in the Big Sky in steals, with NAU leading the pack with an average of 12.7 per game.
Where the Lumberjacks struggle is in field goal percentage defense and free throw shooting. Northern Arizona has allowed opponents to convert 43 percent of its field goals for an average of 71.1 points per game, both of which rank in the bottom three of the Big Sky. NAU's 3-point field goal percentage defense of 37.1 is last in the league, which could be especially bad news for Saturday because Eastern is the second-best team in the Big Sky in terms of 3-point shooting efficiency.
Northern Arizona is also last among the nine BSC teams in free throw percentage, as it has converted just 57 percent of its shots from the charity stripe.
News & Notes
Ryan Scores 30...Again - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) registered a season-high 32 points against Weber State (Jan. 5) for her third 30+ scoring effort of the season. Only one other player in the Big Sky has hit the 30-point mark this season, and no one besides Ryan has done it more than once. She has scored in double figures in all 16 games of the 2011-12 season, which is currently the longest running streak in the Big Sky. In eight of those 16 games, Ryan has poured in 20 or more points. She ranks 17th in the nation with a 20.0 points per game average.
Mother-Daughter Milestone - Senior Brianne Ryan scored 32 points against Weber State (Jan. 5), and in doing so, finally surpassed her mother on EWU's all-time career scoring list. Ryan now ranks eighth in the EWU record book with 1,193 career points. Her mother, Neil Ann Ryan (formerly Massie), is ninth with 1,190. Neil Ann played for Eastern from 1979-82. She is also one of only three players in EWU history to notch 1,000+ rebounds, as well as 1,000+ points. Neil Ann ranks third Eastern's all-time career record book with 1,008 career boards.
Coop Puts Up National Numbers - Senior Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) is among the top five players in the nation in assists. The 5-0 point guard is averaging 7.1 assists per game, which ranks as the fifth-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 5.0. Cooper has the most career assists of any active player in the Big Sky by more than 70, and currently ranks third in the EWU all-time career record book with 430. Cooper also ranks in the top 30 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and in steals.
Coop Sets Career and Single-Game Steals Record - In Eastern's 2011-12 Big Sky Conference opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), senior point guard Chene Cooper broke EWU's 27-year-old career steals record and tied the school's single-game steals record set on six different occasions. Cooper had seven steals against the Bobcats, which improved her career total to 218. She surpassed the previous career record of 212, held by Lisa Comstock, who played from 1982-85. Along with owning the top mark in EWU history, which has since improved to 225, Cooper also appears in the Big Sky record book for all-time career steals, ranking 13th in league history.
Eagles Break 32-Year-Old School Record - As a team, Eastern Washington tallied 22 steals in its Big Sky opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), and in doing so, broke a school record that had stood for 32 years. The previous team single-game steals record of 21 was set on Feb. 10, 1979 when the 1978-79 Eagle squad played Northwest Nazarene. Against the Bobcats on Dec. 29, 2011, eight of 10 players who entered the game had at least one steal, while four players had three or more. Montana State committed 28 total turnovers in the game - the most by an EWU opponent this season.
Toughest Schedule in the Sky - According to the Collegiate Basketball News Women's RPI Report released Jan. 2, EWU's strength of schedule earned the highest ranking among all BSC schools. The Eagles ranked 25th out of 335 teams. Only one other Big Sky program had a strength of schedule ranking in the top 100, and that was Idaho State at No. 58. 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 41.
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. With 1,193 career points in her tenure, the 5-11 guard ranks eighth on the EWU all-time scoring list. She has tallied 320 of those this year.
3-Point Threat - Senior Brianne Ryan has hit at least one 3-pointer in 15 of 16 game this season, and has had three or more in nine different games. She drained a career-high six against Portland (Nov. 29) and had five against Boise State (Dec. 17) and in Eastern's Big Sky debut versus Montana State (Dec. 29). She is averaging 2.6 per game, which ranks third in the Big Sky and 34 nationally. In her career, Ryan has hit 113 3-pointers, which ranks eighth in the EWU record book.
Presence in the Paint - Eastern's junior center Carrie Ojeda has become a big time post player for EWU. She is currently the third-leading scorer on the team, averaging 9.2 points per game, and owns the best field goal percentage at 45.9. She is also the leading rebounder on the squad with an average of 6.3 per game. She has set or matched a career-high scoring mark in four different outings this year. She tied her career-high of 19 points in Eastern's Big Sky debut against Montana State (Dec. 29), as she was 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. She also had 19 points against Eastern Oregon (Dec. 12) on an 8-of-12 effort from the field. She has had two double-doubles on the year, both coming in conference play.
Pakootas Making an Impact - Sophomore Chenise Pakootas had a career outing in Eastern's final non-conference game against Idaho. She scored 14 points and hit a career-high four 3-pointers. Pakootas has appeared in all 15 games for EWU this season, averaging 15.2 minutes per game. She is fourth on the team in scoring and ranks among the top 10 in the Big Sky in terms of 3-point shooters, as she averages 1.4 per game on 40 percent. She hit at least one 3-pointer in the first nine games of the season, and has had two or more in six outings.
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 8-1 this year when leading at the half, and 8-1 when they shoot above 40 percent from the field. When EWU has trailed or been tied at halftime, the team is 0-7. 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.
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 3.7 per game. She has had four or more total rebounds in 10 of 16 games this year, including a career-high nine agaisnt conference foe Montana (Jan. 2). Point guard Kylie Huerta has averaged 8.9 minutes in Eastern's first 15 games of the season, and has tallied 25 points and 23 assists. 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.
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.
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.
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 and Pakootas have since topped that number though. 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).