Rested Eagle Squad Takes On Gonzaga Tuesday in Spokane

As non-conference season winds down, EWU continues to look for improvement in annual meeting with cross-town rival

Upcoming Games/Coverage

Eastern at Gonzaga
Tuesday, Dec. 4 | 6 p.m. PT
McCarthey Athletic Center | Spokane, Wash.
Game Notes

TV: Televised regionally by SWX - SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Davis Cable 514/81.2/12; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Northland Cable 115
Audio | Live Stats

After a week off from competition, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball will dive back in to its non-conference slate on Tuesday (Dec. 4) with a challenging matchup against the Bulldogs of Gonzaga at 6 p.m. in Spokane, Wash.

Eastern then plays Friday (Dec. 7) at Boise State in its final tune-up before Big Sky play begins.

Tuesday’s game will be televised live by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Davis Cable 514/81.2/12; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Northland Cable 115). Fans may also follow the game via an online broadcast at, featuring the official voice of Eagle women’s basketball, Greg Talbott.

Although a mere 20 minutes from home, Tuesday’s contest is a road game in every sense of the word. For the second year in a row, the Eagles play will their cross-town rival, which received 20 votes in the most recent USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll, at the hostile McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.

Eastern has not won a game at the home of the Zags since 2001, although EWU did celebrate a 72-69 victory over GU at the Spokane Arena in 2004. But since then, the Bulldogs have won eight-straight against the Eags.

Last season though, EWU was just moments away from upsetting the nationally-ranked Bulldogs at McCarthey. After completely controlling the first half, and enjoying a 39-33 advantage at intermission, the Eagles maintained a one-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the game. But Eastern had just one possession in the final 30 seconds, and Gonzaga made 7-of-10 free throws to narrowly escape with a win.

“In preparation for this year’s game, I did go back and watch that film,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “Mainly because Kelly [Graves] has been at GU for 13 years and I’ve been here for 12, so we’re old dogs in a way, and haven’t changed a lot it terms of what we run and what we do. I just wanted to see how we defended them and hey they defend us on different plays. We played really well last year, and put ourselves in a great position to win, but our team is very, very different this year. And so is theirs.”

“Gonzaga lost some high-quality players, WNBA-level players, and I thought we lost two of the best players in our school’s history,” added Schuller. “So it’s going to be different. I think Gonzaga has found their new identity. They are still really young, but have some older junior and senior guards who have really stepped up and assumed the role they needed to. For us, I think we are still finding ourselves. But every time we step on the floor, we are trying to win, and that will be no different tomorrow night.”

Gonzaga leads the all-time series with EWU, 26-13, which includes a 13-4 advantage at the McCarthey/Martin Centre in Spokane.

Eagle-Bulldog Roster Connections

  • EWU recently signed Spokane-native Jade Redmon to a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Eastern starting in the 2013-14 season. Redmon is the younger sister of current Gonzaga guard, Jazmine Redmon, who has started all eight games for the Zags this season, and leads the team in assists with 29. Jade and Jazmine’s mother, Shaney, was a track and field athlete at Washington State University, who coincidentally, was coached at WSU by Eastern’s current head track and field coach, Marcia Mecklenburg.
  • Gonzaga assistant women’s basketball coach Lisa Mispley Fortier is married to current EWU associate head men’s basketball coach, Craig Fortier. Prior to coming to Eastern in 2011-12, Fortier was an assistant at Whitworth University in Spokane. This husband-wife coaching duo helped lead their respective teams to “Elite Eight” national tournament appearances in 2010.
  • Separated by just 20 miles, EWU and Gonzaga often cross paths on the recruiting trail. The two teams often have athletes on their rosters that came from the same high school. Currently, EWU freshman Tisha Phillips and Gonzaga freshman Chelsea Waters represent one such commonality, as the two were teammates at Lewiston High School for two seasons. Phillips and Waters led the Bengals to back-to-back 5A Idaho State Championships in 2011 and 2012. Eastern’s sophomore point guard Kylie Huerta attended the same high school as Gonzaga great, Courtney Vandersloot, although the two missed each other as actual teammates at Kentwood by just one year.

Fast Look at the [Probable] Starting Five

#13 Lexie Nelson (Guard)

• Nelson has scored in double figures in five of the six games this year, including a career-high 23 points in Eastern’s first win of the year against Portland (Nov. 18). In EWU’s most recent outing at Idaho, she made 8-of-11 shots for a season-high field goal percentage of 72.7.
• Averaging 14.0 points per game, Nelson is currently Eastern’s leading scorer, while ranking among the top six in the Big Sky. She also ranks among the top 10 in the league in 3-point field goals, free throw percentage and minutes played.  She has hit three 3-pointers on two different occasions.
• Nelson has earned a trip to the free throw line 35 times this season, which accounts for nearly half of the team’s total free-throw attempts this season.
• 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 9.2 rebounds per game, Ojeda ranks among the top three in the Big Sky and top 75 nationally. She posted a career-high 17 boards in the season debut against Pacific (Nov. 11), and has had at least five in her four other appearances this year.
• After leading the league in 2011-12 with a 1.7 blocks per game average, Ojeda has tallied seven already this year, which includes her 100th-career block. Ojeda ranks seventh in the EWU all-time career record book in that category.She says blocking shots is her favorite part of the game.
• Including two already this season, Ojeda has posted eight double-doubles throughout her career.

#30 Chenise Pakootas (Guard)

• Pakootas has had at least three steals in four of six games this season. She is leading the Eagles with a 2.5 steals per game average, while ranking fourth in the league.
• After averaging 13.6 minutes as a sophomore, Pakootas has more than doubled her minutes this season, averaging 28.8 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 1.3 3-pointers per game, which ranks in the top 10 in the Big Sky. She hit a career-high four against the nationally-ranked California Golden Bears.

#32 Aubrey Ashenfelter (Guard)

• Ashenfelter earned her first-career double-double in Eastern’s initial win of the year against Portland (Nov. 18), with 11 points and 10 rebounds. She followed that performance with a 12-point effort against Cal on Nov. 23, and had nine tallies the next day in a win over Fullerton.
• With 1,357 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 responsiblities are expected to change this year, from a role player to consistent scorer.
• Ashenfelter 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 bested that effort in just the second game of the 2012-13 season with a career-high 10 boards against Cal State Northridge (Nov. 15). She is the second-leading rebounder on the team this year, averaging 5.0 per game.
• 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.

Eagle News & Notes

Early-Season Observations

• After shooting a combined 30.1 percent from the field in the first two games of the year, EWU has shot 40 percent or better in three of its last four outings, including a season-best 46.0 percent on the road against the nationally-ranked California Golden Bears. EWU recorded a season-high 10 3-pointers in that game.

• Through the first four games of the year, Eastern did not play in a game decided by single digits. The average scoring margin for EWU to start ths eason was -12.5, but that does include an 18-point victory over Portland (Nov. 18). But Eastern’s two most recent contests have both come down to the wire. In the 50-45 win over Cal State Fullerton, the Eagles led the entire way but the Titans were within single digits for the final eight minutes of the game. In their game at Idaho, the Eagles climbed back from a 12-point hafltime deficit to take a five-point lead with under a minute remaining. But the Vandals scored five points in the final 38 seconds, including a game-winning buzzer beater.

• Eastern has had five different players lead the team in scoring this year. Sophomore Lexie Nelson has had three team-high performances, while senior Carrie Ojeda and juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter, Chenise Pakootas and Laura Hughes have all led in points once.

• Eastern is equally versatile in rebounding, 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 performance already this year.

• Although Eastern has not recorded many high-scoring affairs this season, the Eagles have held five of its opponents so far to under 70 points. EWU’s scoring defense average of 64.0 ppg currently ranks sixth out of 11 in the Big Sky.

Peak Performers

• 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. In the most recent game at Idaho, Nelson scored 19 points on a season-best 8-of-11 shots from the floor, including another three 3-pointers.

• Sophomore Kylie Huerta had a stellar performance against Idaho. Coming off the bench, she contributed seven points, seven rebounds and six assists - all of which were career highs for the 5-1 point guard.

• 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 a 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.

• 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.

• Senior Carrie Ojeda hauled in a career-high 17 rebounds in the 2012-13 season debut against Pacific. 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 of 11 points and 11 rebounds to help EWU earn a 50-45 win over Cal State Fullerton.

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.

Preseason Talking Points

• Eastern won their lone exhibition game on Nov. 4 against the NAIA’s Carroll College. EWU outscored 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.

View: Mobile | Desktop