Eastern focusing on “us” as it prepares to play the Big West Conference preseason favorite
In its second-straight matchup against a Big West opponent, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team will play at Cal State Northridge on Thursday (Nov. 15) in its first road test of the 2012-13 campaign.
The Eagles will then return to Reese Court to play Portland in its third-consecutive Sunday (Nov. 18) home game. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m., and the game may be watched live on the web via www.bigskytv.org.
Eastern is coming off a 64-51 loss to Pacific in its season debut. The Tigers, who also hail from the Big West Conference, were picked to finish second in the league this year. The one team to edge out Pacific in the 2012-13 preseason poll was Cal State Northridge.
The Matadors return four starters and four other letterwinners from last year’s squad that went 17-14 overall and played in the first round of the 2012 WNIT.
“Cal State Northridge is going to challenge us,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “They are going to play fast and athletic, and come at us hard. We need to be able to match their intensity level.”
But according to Schuller, the main focus as it prepares for Northridge is not what the Matadors will do, but rather, what EWU will bring to the table.
“Everything is about us right now,” said Schuller. “We need to work on getting better in terms of offensive execution, getting better at understanding each other’s strengths and playing together as a cohesive unit.”
“I was not pleased with our execution against Pacific,” added Schuller. “I think we lost our focus in the second half, and I don’t know why. Our goal now is to just go out and be a better team on Thursday than we were on Sunday.”
Eastern will look for continued improvement against Portland as well - a team the Eagles have played almost every year since 1985-86.
Coincidentally, the Pilots played Cal State Northridge in their season debut, suffering a 70-51 loss to the Matadors in Northridge, Calif. Portland then dropped a 95-48 decision to Louisville for a 0-2 start to the year.
Other Game Notes
*Cal State Northridge was a member of the Big Sky Conference from 1996-2001. In that time span, EWU went 2-9 against the Matadors. Since then, EWU and CSUN have had four non-conference matchups, with each team winning twice on its home court.
*The all-time series between Eastern and Portland stands at 14-9, in favor of EWU. The Eagles have won two of the last three against the Pilots, including a 76-60 victory last year in Portland.
*Former EWU assistant coach, Cheryl Sorenson, is now an assistant with the Pilots. Sorenson was an assistant under Schuller from 2007-2011, before joining the Portland women’s basketball staff.
Eagle News & Notes
- 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 sixth 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).
- Eastern converted 48 percent of its field goals the first half against Pacific, while holding the Tigers to 36.7 percent shooting. But the tables were reversed in the second half, as EWU converted just 6-of-27 shots, compared to 12-of-26 for Pacific.
- The Eagles forced 17 turnovers with 10 steals in their first outing of the year, but EWU gave up 19 turnovers of its own, which resulted in 18 points for Pacific on the other end of the floor.
- 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.