Eastern looks to extend three-game winning streak in matchup with NAIA foe
After seven consecutive games on the road, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team will return to Cheney to play in the familiar confines of Reese Court. The Eagles host Warner Pacific on Saturday (Dec. 29) at 2 p.m.
This matchup against the NAIA-school out of Portland, Ore., is sandwiched in between Eastern’s Big Sky Conference slate. With 11 teams now in the league, and 20 conference games on the schedule, EWU had to make an early Big Sky debut last weekend with games at Weber State and Idaho State. Eastern came away from the pre-Christmas jaunt with a road sweep, as they dominated WSU, 88-60, and won in Pocatello - for the first time since 2003 - with a 61-55 decision over the Bengals.
Eastern next conference games are not till Jan. 3 and 5 against Montana and Montana State, respectively. So, to avoid a near two-week hiatus from games, the Eagles will take on the Knights of Warner Pacific this Saturday in their first home game in more than a month.
EWU played WPC last year in an exhibition game to kick off the season. The Eagles handled the Knights with ease, earning a 97-61 victory in Cheney. Warner Pacific is 7-6 in the current 2012-13 season and 3-2 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.
Saturday’s duel will mark the third regular-season meeting between these two teams in history - all of which have happened in head coach Wendy Schuller’s tenure. Eastern played Warner Pacific in 2008 and again in 2009, winning both contests by more than 30 points.
Eastern will be looking to keep a three-game winning streak alive when it returns to Reese Court to face the Knights. The Eagles are 1-1 at home this year, 3-4 on the road, and 1-0 at neutral sites. Although EWU will be eager to play in front of a familiar crowd, the team has done quite well in its last few outings on the road.
The Eagles have shot 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from three. At least different players have reached double figures in the last three games, and as a team, EWU has averaged nearly 75 points per game. Hopefully, the offense continues to thrive on the home floor.
Fast Look at the [Probable] Starting Five...
#13 | LEXIE NELSON (GUARD)
• Nelson has scored in double figures in nine of 10 games
this year, including two games with 20 or more points. In the last
five games, she has shot 53 percent from the field, and 46 percent
from three . She has made at least two 3-pointers in four of the
last five games, including three long balls in three-straight
• Averaging 15 points per game, Nelson is currently Eastern’s leading scorer, while ranking third overall in the Big Sky. She earns those points quite efficiently as well, ranking in the top 10 in the league in field goal pct. 3-point field pct. and free throw pct., as well as in minutes played.
• Nelson has earned a trip to the free throw line 51 times this season, which is almost twice as many times as any other player on the team.
• A transfer from Big Sky rival Montana, Nelson sat out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules. As a freshman with the Lady Griz, Nelson played in 32 of 33 games, including three postseason contests. Coincidentally, Nelson had her best offensive performance of the year in a regular-season game against Eastern Washington, scoring 14 points for UM.
#21 | CARRIE OJEDA (CENTER)
• Averaging a team-leading 8.1 rebounds per game, Ojeda
ranks among the top three in the Big Sky and top 80 nationally. She
posted a career-high 17 boards in the season debut against Pacific
(Nov. 11), and 11 in Eastern’s win at Boise State. She has
had at least four boards in her seven other appearances this
• After leading the league in 2011-12 with a 1.7 blocks per game average, Ojeda has tallied 10 already this year, including her 100th-career block. Ojeda ranks seventh in the EWU all-time career record book in that category, now with 103, which is second among all active players in the Big Sky. She says shot blocking is her favorite part of the game.
• Including three already this season - the second-most of any player in the Big Sky - Ojeda has posted nine double-doubles throughout her career. This season, she has nearly averaged a double-double at 10.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
#30 | CHENISE PAKOOTAS (GUARD)
• Pakootas has had at least one steal in seven of 10 games
this year, and has had a career-high four steals on two different
occasions. She is leading the Eagles with a 1.7 steals per game
average, which ranks among the top 15 in the Big Sky.
• After averaging 13.6 minutes as a sophomore, Pakootas has doubled her minutes this season, averaging 25.9 now as a starter for the Eagles.
• Pakootas was the most efficient 3-point shooter in the Big Sky Conference in 2011-12, converting 40 percent of her long-range shots. She is currently averaging 1.1 3-pointers per game. She hit a career-high four against the nationally-ranked California Golden Bears.
#32 | AUBREY ASHENFELTER (GUARD)
• Ashenfelter has scored in double figures in three of the
last four games, bringing her season average to exactly 10.0 points
per game - the third Eagle currently average double figures. She
has also shot above 42 percent from the field in the last
• Ashenfelter is the second-most efficient 3-point shooter in the Big Sky at 46.9 percent from behind the line. She has hit at least one trey in nine of 10 games this year.
• With 1,476 minutes played thus far in her career, Ashenfelter is the second-most experienced player on the team. She appeared in all 31 games as a true freshman in 2010-11 and started 29 of 30 last year. But her responsibilities have changed this year, from a role player to an aggressive, more consistent scorer.
• She earned her first-career double-double earlier this year in a win over Portland (Nov. 18), with 11 points and 10 rebounds. She is a two-time Big Sky All-Academic honoree.
#42 | MELISSA WILLIAMS (FORWARD)
• After posting a season-high nine rebounds on two
different occasions in 2011-12, Williams has recorded a new
career-high of 10 boards twice already this year. She is the
second-leading rebounder on the team this year, averaging 5.4 per
• Williams was one of only two true freshmen in the Big Sky to start every game of the 2011-12 season.
• As a rookie in 2011-12, Williams had at least five rebounds in 11 of 16 conference games, and improved her shooting efficiency from 39 percent in the non-conference season to 46 percent in league play.
First Four off the Bench
#4 | KYLIE HUERTA (POINT GUARD)
• After scoring a combined 10 points in the first five
games of the year, Huerta has put up 36 tallies in the last five
games combined, including a game-high and career-high 15 against
defending Big Sky Champion, Idaho State (Dec. 22). She also had
just five assists through the first five games of the year, but has
dished out 23 since.
• Huerta is a 2011 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., which is the same school that produced Gonzaga legend and current WNBA star Courtney Vandersloot, as well as Nebraska four-year starter Lindsey Moore, who is a 2013 preseason Wade List and Naismith Trophy candidate…Huerta was the direct successor of these two nationally-acclaimed point guards…Kentwood is also the alma-mater of EWU men’s basketball great, Rodney Stuckey.
#12 | HANNA MACK (CENTER)
• A true freshman, Mack has appeared in nine of 10 games
for EWU, including one start against nationally-ranked California.
She averages 7.2 minutes per game.
• Mack was a four-year varsity letterwinner at Marist High School in Eugene, Ore., and standing at 6-foot-4, she is the tallest player signed by Schuller in more than five years.
#25 | HAYLEY HODGINS (GUARD)
• Coming off her redshirt-freshman year, Hodgins has played
in nine of 10 games for EWU this year, averaging 3.6 points and 1.4
rebounds per game.
• She has hit at least one 3-pointer in seven of 10 games, and has had two in three separate outings.
• A 2011 graduate of Chiawana High School in Pasco, Wash., Hodgins was a two-time Columbia Basin Big Nine Cascade Division First-Team selection and was honored on the Seattle Time All-State Second Team.
#54 | LAURA HUGHES (CENTER)
• Hughes started the first two games of the year for
Eastern, but has come off the bench in the last six. She averages
18.1 minutes per game.
• The 6-2 junior center is currently the fourth-leading scorer on the team, averaging 7.6 points per game. She has scored in double figures in three outings this year, including a career-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting in a narrow loss to Idaho on Nov. 27. She led the team with 18 points in its conference debut on Dec. 20 - an 88-60 rout of Weber State.
Eagle News & Notes
EFFICIENT EAGLES: Ten games in, and one weekend of Big Sky action in the books, Eastern Washington has proved to be the most efficient team in the league. The Eagles rank first in the Big Sky in both field goal percentage and free throw percentage, and are second in 3-point field goal percentage. Eastern has shot 40 percent or better in its last five-consecutive outings. On the year, EWU is making 41.2 percent of its shots from the field, and 35 percent from beyond the arc. Eastern’s most dangerous threats on the perimeter in terms of efficiency are junior guard Aubrey Ashenfelter and sophomore guard Lexie Nelson, who currently rank second and sixth in the league, respectively.
SHARING THE WEALTH...ON OFFENSE: Eastern has had six different players lead the team in scoring this year. Sophomore Lexie Nelson has had five team-high performances, while senior Carrie Ojeda, juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter, Chenise Pakootas and Laura Hughes, and sophomore Kylie Huerta have all led in points at least once. Eastern has had at least three different players score in double-figures in three-straight games. Nelson, Ojeda and Ashenfelter are all averaging 10 or more points so far this season.
SHARING THE WEALTH...ON DEFENSE: Eastern is also a versatile rebounding team, as six different players have led on the glass at least once this year. Senior Carrie Ojeda, juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter and Laura Hughes, and sophomore Melissa Williams have each posted at least one double-digit rebounding effort already this year.
PUTTIN’ UP POINTS: In its last three games, which includes the conference openers at WSU and ISU, Eastern has averaged 74 points per game. That is nearly 20 points more than what it had been averaging in the first seven games of the year.
IMPORTANCE OF AN EARLY LEAD: Eastern is 5-0 this year when leading at the half, and conversely, 0-5 when either tied or trailing at intermission. In fact, EWU has earned a double-digit lead after the first 20 minutes in four of its five wins this year. EWU had a six-point edge on Cal State Fullerton at the half, before going on to win it, 50-45.
REGARDING ASSIST/TURNOVER RATIO: Similar to the record discrepancy in halftime scores, EWU is 3-0 this year when committing less turnovers than its opponent, and is 4-1 when tallying more assists. Rebounds, free throws and even field goal percentage don’t seem to have as much effect on EWU’s ability to win as assist/turnover ratio.
STRINGENT SCHEDULE: With back-to-back wins over Weber State and Idaho State during Big Sky opening weekend, Eastern reached the .500 (5-5) for the first time this season. But Eastern has already played two opponents (Cal, Gonzaga) who were either ranked or receiving votes in the most recent USA Today Sports Coaches Top 25 Poll. EWU opened the year against Pacific and Cal State Northridge - the two teams picked to finish at the top of the Big West Conference this year. On its 2012-13 schedule, the Eagles have a total of seven opponents that participated in national tournaments a year ago.
GATORADE GIRLS: This year, Eastern Washington boasts not one, but two Gatorade Players of the Year on its roster. A product of Butte (Mont.) High School, sophomore Lexie Nelson was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Montana in 2010, while freshman Tisha Phillips, a graduate of Lewiston (Idaho) High School, earned the honor for Idaho in 2012. Nelson was a four-time Class AA All-State selection, and led her team to back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Montana State Championships. Phillips was a two-time First-Team All-State selection, and won two Idaho 5A state titles with the Bengals.
• Sophomore Lexie Nelson poured in career-high 23 points on a 7-of-12 performance from the floor to lead Eastern to a 68-50 rout of Portland (Nov. 18) - its first win of the 2012-13 season. Nelson drained three 3-pointers and made 6-of-7 from the charity stripe. All this came in the midst of suffering a bloody nose midway through the game. She had 20 points in Eastern’s win at Boise State (Dec. 7), where she made 7-of-13 from the field, 3-of-6 from long range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. She also had five rebounds and three assists against BSU.
• Sophomore Kylie Huerta turned in the best weekend of her career in Eastern’s 2012-13 Big Sky openers against Weber State and Idaho State. Against the Wildcats, she was nearly flawless, converting 3-of-3 field goals, 1-of-1 free throws, and tallying a career-high seven assists with just one turnover. Two days later at Idaho State, she led the team to victory with a career-high 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
• Junior Laura Hughes had a career-night in Eastern’s road game at Idaho on Nov. 27. The 6-2 center made 8-of-12 shots from the floor and went a perfect 4-of-4 from the line for a career-high and team-leading 20 points. She also led EWU on the glass with nine rebounds, and contributed one steal. She had 16 points in the second half, which helped EWU overcome a 12-point halftime deficit and take a lead with five minutes remaining in the game. Hughes also made 8-of-12 shots in Eastern’s win at Weber State, for a team-leading 18 points.
• Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter had an impressive stat line in Eastern’s first win against Portland (Nov. 18). The 6-0 guard posted her first-career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but she also tied her career-high in assists with six, and tallied two steals and one block. Ashenfelter was 5-of-8 against the Pilots, after going just 4-of-17 in the first two outings of 2012-13. In the very next game against nationally-ranked California, Ashenfelter made 5-of-11 shots, including two 3-pointers, for a team-leading 12 points, to go along with four assists, three rebounds and two steals. But her season-high scoring mark came in the Big Sky debut at Weber State (Dec. 20), where she had 18 points, with four 3-pointers and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
• Senior Carrie Ojeda hauled in a career-high 17 rebounds in the 2012-13 season debut against Pacific (Nov. 11). She also added 14 points for her first double-double of the year, and the seventh in her career. Ojeda had 10 defensive rebounds and seven on the offensive glass to lead all players in the game by at least seven. She also led Eastern in assists (4) and blocked shots (4) in that game. Ojeda notched her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 50-45 win over Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 24).
PRESEASON TALKING POINTS
• Eastern won their lone exhibition game on Nov. 4 against the NAIA’s Carroll College. EWU out-scored the Saints by 22 in the second half to roll to a 65-38 victory. Nine different Eagles contributed points in the game, led by sophomore Lexie Nelson, who poured in 19.
• Eastern returns three starters and six other letterwinners, as well as three redshirts and four newcomers. But for the first time in three years, the Eagles will not welcome back an All-Big Sky player. Following the 2011-12 season, Eastern graduated two-time unanimous first-team selection and 2012 Big Sky MVP Brianne Ryan, as well as second-team honoree Chene Cooper, who accounted for nearly 50 percent of the Eagle scoring a year ago.
• Eastern Washington was picked eighth in the 2012-13 Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ and Media Poll - a ranking that would leave Eastern just out of the seven-team postseason tournament. But Eastern is certainly familiar with that kind of prediction - and familiar with proving it wrong. Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Eagles were selected seventh by both the coaches and media. That year, EWU went on to win the school’s first-ever Big Sky regular-season title with a 12-4 league record. Last season, the Eagles were picked seventh again, and ended up finishing third overall after a 10-6 run in conference play.
• Eastern is coming off one of its best seasons ever in the Big Sky Conference. With a 10-6 record in 2011-12, EWU took third in the league race - its second-best effort in more than two decades. The only better finish since 1987-88, when the Big Sky started sponsoring women’s sports, came two years prior in 2009-10, when the Eagles won the school’s first-ever regular-season title with a 12-4 league record.
• Over the last three years, Eastern has earned 30 Big Sky Conference wins, which is more than it had in the previous five seasons combined.
• In the past 10 seasons, Eastern Washington women’s basketball players have been honored 88 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 WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for 10 of the past 11 seasons.
• Eastern has advanced to the Big Sky Conference tournament in eight of Schuller’s 11 years as head coach, including the last three in a row. In the most recent 2011-12 season, Schuller led the Eagles to a first-ever sweep of the Montana road trip in school history. The back-to-back wins at Montana (Jan. 26) and Montana State (Jan. 28) were two of Eastern’s six total road wins in the Big Sky season - which tied another school record.