The final Dam Cup contest of the year, Eagles must win to secure the trophy, and the first regular-season sweep of PSU since 2004-05
Eastern vs. Portland State
Thursday, Feb. 21| 6:05 p.m. PST
Reese Court | Cheney, Wash.
Promotion: "Red Out Reese" - First 500 fans in attendance receive a FREE T-Shirt courtesy of Northern Quest Resort & Casino
It’s an important time of year for the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team, and a particularly important Thursday for the Eagles.
In its lone game of the week, the Eagles host Portland State Thursday (Feb. 21) at 6:05 p.m. at Reese Court. The winner of this game will secure the 2013 “Dam Cup” trophy for their university. Eastern currently holds a slight 8-7 lead in this friendly five-sport rivalry, but with two points on the line Thursday, it all comes down to this.
“This is an important game to us because it’s one of our last remaining home games,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “We’re also at the point in the season where we want to be playing really good basketball. As the conference tournament starts to get in your sights, you want to be playing your best basketball of the year. That is probably the No. 1 thing we’re focused on is clicking on all cylinders as a team. But this game is ‘dam’ important for the University and our rivalry with Portland State, so we are certainly going to do our ‘damdest’ to be successful and bring home the cup.
With five games remaining on their 2012-13 regular-season schedule, the Eagles have a tenuous hold on third place in the Big Sky standings. Eastern (14-10, 10-5 Big Sky) is 2 1/2 games behind league-leading Montana (13-3) and two games back from Northern Colorado (12-3). Right on Eastern’s tail is Idaho State (9-6), Sac State (9-6) and Montana State (9-7).
Eastern is coming off a 78-70 road win at Southern Utah, which secured EWU’s first regular-season sweep of the Big Sky season. The Eags will be going to their second on Thursday, as they already defeated the Vikings in Portland earlier this year.
While the current records may indicate EWU as the clear favorite, this particular series has been evenly-matched as of late. The Eagles and Vikings have split the regular-season meetings for three-consecutive years, and nine out of 16 total since PSU joined the league in 1996-97. As conference rivals, the series stands at 16-13, in favor of PSU.
This rivalry extends even further for Schuller and Portland State head coach Sherri Murrell, who was the head coach at Washington State from 2002-07 before heading to PSU.
“It’s been a friendly rivalry between Sherri and me over the years, dating back to her days at Washington State,” said Schuller. “Every year, it would always be a close game between us and we would usually split back and forth who would win. It’s been the same case during her time at Portland State. She has done a great job to build a quality program there, and we kind of play similar styles within the Big Sky.”
In the first meeting of the year between Eastern and Portland State, the Eagles pulled away in the second half for a 68-56 victory. Eastern held just a four-point lead at halftime, but in the second half, forced 13 Viking turnovers, which it converted into 14 points on the other end. The Eagles also held a 14-7 advantage in second-chance points in the second half.
Redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins scored a career-high 22 points in that game on Jan. 21, while senior Carrie Ojeda posted a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Portland State’s Angela Misa led the Vikings with 15 points and eight rebounds, but the junior forward will not be a factor in Thursday’s game, as she unfortunately suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 9 against Sac State.
More on THE DAM CUP: Eastern Washington and Portland State began a five sport rivalry cup called “The Dam Cup” in 2010-11. The Dam Cup celebrates the friendly rivalry between the states of Oregon and Washington within the Big Sky Conference.
The so-named rivalry refers to the four dams linking Oregon and Washington that you would pass on the 339-mile drive from the Portland State campus to the Eastern Washington campus. Located along the Columbia River, they are Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, The John Day Dam and the McNary Dam.
The five sports competing for the cup are football, women's soccer, women's volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. The purpose of the Dam Cup is to create a rivalry between Portland State University and Eastern Washington University and provide a sense of pride between alumni in the Portland and Spokane areas. Other goals include increasing attendance at events between both schools and building school spirit among each institutions' student body. The winner of the Dam Cup will possess The Dam Trophy, acknowledging the achievement for the following year.
The Dam Cup is based on a point system. Each game played in the five sports between the two schools has a point value. Points are only rewarded for regular-season contests. The annual football game is worth four points, the women's soccer match is worth one point, each women's volleyball match is worth two points for a total of four points possible, and each men's and women's basketball game is worth two points for a total of four points possible in each sport, The total points possible are 17, which means a school would need at least nine points to win the cup. Portland State won THE DAM CUP in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons. Eastern currently has a slight edge in the 2012-13 race at 8-7. Here is a listing of the 2012-13 Dam Cup Series games and current point totals: Volleyball - Sept. 17 PSU 3, @ EWU 0 - PSU leads 2-0; Soccer - Sept. 30 @ PSU 4 @ EWU 0 - PSU leads 3-0; Volleyball - Oct. 18 @ PSU 3, EWU 0 - PSU leads 5-0; Football - Nov. 17 EWU 41, @ PSU 34 - PSU leads 5-4; Women's Basketball - Jan. 21 EWU 68, @ PSU 56 - EWU leads 6-5; Men's Basketball - Jan. 28 @ EWU 76, PSU 65 – EWU leads 8-5; Men's Basketball - Feb. 18 @ PSU 89, EWU 80 – EWU leads 8-7; Women's Basketball - Feb. 21 @ EWU...TBD.
News & Notes You Should Know
ONE OF THE BEST IN THE NATION FROM THREE:
Eastern Washington is not only the best 3-point shooting team in
the Big Sky this season, but the Eagles rank among the top 20 in
the nation in terms of efficiency from beyond the arc. EWU is
converting 35.5 percent of its shots from downtown, and 38.2
percent in league-only games. Eastern averages 5.7 3-point field
goals per game, which is second only to Sac State. Eastern has
three players who rank in the top 15 in terms of 3-point field goal
pct, including Lexie Nelson (5th), Aubrey Ashenfelter (sixth) and
Hayley Hodgins (seventh). In the last nine games, those three
players, plus point guard Kylie Huerta, have combined for 49 made
FREE THROW FRENZY: Sophomore Lexie Nelson converted a career-high 12-of-12 free throws in Eastern's last meeting with Southern Utah (Jan. 26). In doing so, she bettered a 21-year old school record held by Lisa Graber, who made 11-of-11 against Northern Arizona on Feb. 22, 1992. She also tied the all-time Big Sky single-game record of 1.000 percent (with at least 12 attempts), which has been met by 12 different players throughout history. As a team, EWU ranks first in the Big Sky and 42nd in the nation from the free throw line at 74 percent on the season. Against Southern Utah on Jan. 26, the Eagles made a season-high 25-of-26 free throws.
OJEDA CLIMBING THE CHARTS: With two blocks in Eastern's recent game against NAU (Feb. 7), senior Carrie Ojeda brought her career total to 117, which moved the senior into fifth place on EWU's all-time career blocks list. Ojeda surpassed Kathleen Nygaard, who had 115 in her four years (2002-04) with the Eagles. Currently, Ojeda has 119 total blocks in her tenure - just 18 blocks away from catching Nicolle Scott in fourth place with 137. Ojeda is fourth among all active players in the Big Sky in that category. She has had at least one block in 15 of 23 games played this season, and has posted three or more on three different occasions.
BACK ON TRACK: In the first five games of the 2013 calendar year, EWU was shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor, and 35.5 percent from three. But in its last nine games, seven of which were wins, Eastern has converted 43 percent of its field goals, and 38 percent from downtown. The Eagles are first in the league in both 3-point field goal percentage (35.5) and free throw percentage (74.0) and are third in overall field goal percentage (40.6).
STARTING SUITS THEM: Redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins and sophomore Kylie Huerta were inserted into EWU's starting lineup midway through the season, and the new role has certainly agreed with both players. In the last nine games, Hodgins has averaged 10.4 points on 40.2 percent shooting, and has knocked down 13-of-29 attempts from beyond the arc. Huerta has averaged 9.3 points, 5.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals. As non-starters, Hodgins was averaging just 4.6 points on 37 percent, while Huerta averaged 5.1 points and just 2.7 assists. Since becoming a member of the starting five, Huerta has posted an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.3, with 52 total assists and 23 turnovers. She currently leads the Big Sky in that category, while ranking in the top 60 nationally. In Hodgins' first-career start in red and white, the 5-10 guard was flawless on the offensive end, going 7-of-7 from the field, and 3-of-3 from downtown. In doing so, she became the first player in the Big Sky this season to shoot 100 percent from the field with at least five attempts. Following her impressive efforts in Eastern's home sweep of North Dakota and Northern Colorado, Hodgins was named the Big Sky Player of the Week - the first EWU player honored in the 2012-13 season.
OJEDA ALWAYS DELIVERS AGAINST VIKINGS: Senior Carrie Ojeda has posted six double-doubles this year - the third most in the Big Sky. One of them came in a 68-56 win a Portland State (Jan. 21), when Ojeda had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Interestingly, Ojeda has registered a double-double in each of the last four regular-season meetings with the Viks. She has had a total of 12 double-doubles in her career.
PUPS STEP UP: In EWU's 79-70 win over Southern Utah (Jan. 26), the Eagles had eight different players score at least six points - and six of them were underclassmen. Sophomores Lexie Nelson and Kylie Huerta led the way with 21 and 12 points, respectively, while redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins chipped in six. But the surprise contributors were freshmen Kayleigh Ryan and Hanna Mack, who both posted a career-high six points on a combined 5-of-8 effort from the floor.
EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS...AGAIN: In recent years, head coach Wendy Schuller has not earned a lot of respect from her peers in the preseason. Eastern Washington was picked eighth in tthis year's Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ and Media Poll - a ranking that would leave the Eagles just out of the seven-team postseason tournament. But EWU is certainly familiar with that kind of prediction - and even more 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 an imipressive 12-4 league record. Last season, the Eagles were picked seventh again, and ended up finishing third overall. Right now, Eastern is among the top three teams in the league, after starting the year picked in the bottom four.
150 AND COUTNING: Wendy Schuller won her 150th
game as EWU’s head coach with a 75-72 home win over North
Dakota on Jan. 17. That started a five-game winning streak for the
Eagles, who have now won seven of the last nine since that day.
Schuller, the second-most winningest coach in EWU history, has a
career record of 155-189 (.449) in 12 years as at the helm.
REGARDING ASSIST/TURNOVER RATIO: In games that Eastern has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.8 or higher, the Eagles are 12-2. When the assist-to-turnover ratio is below 0.8, the team is 2-7. EWU is 8-0 this year when committing less turnovers than its opponent, and is 8-1 when tallying more assists. On the season, the Eagles rank fourth out of 11 teams in the conference in assist/turnover ratio at 0.8.
HOLD 'EM to 60/40: In the 2012-13 season, Eastern is 11-2 when holding teams to less than 40 percent shooting from the field, and 8-0 when its opponent scores fewer than 60 points.
WILLIAMS' WEEKEND TO REMEMBER: EWU came away
with two losses on its road trip earlier this year to Northern
Arizona and Sac State, but individually, sophomore forward Melissa
Williams had the best weekend of her Eagle career. She posted
back-to-back double-doubles, averaging 11.5 points (nearly triple
her season average) and 11.0 rebounds, while also leading the team
in assists with seven. Against the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff,
Williams had a career high in both points and rebounds, as she
finished with 13 tallies on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and
5-of-7 from the free throw line, and grabbed 11 boards. She also
had four assists, one block and one steal. Two days later against
the Hornets, she had 10 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with
three assists and two steals. But her stellar weekend came to a
premature end when she went down with a knee injury in the final
six minutes of the Sac State game. Williams suffered a sprained
MCL, and had to sit out for two weeks. But the sophomore forward
made her return against Southern Utah (Jan. 26), contributing six
points and five rebounds.
VALUE OF VERSATILITY...ON OFFENSE: Eastern has had seven different players lead the team in scoring this year. Sophomore Lexie Nelson leads the way with 10 team-high performances, while Carrie Ojeda, Aubrey Ashenfelter, Chenise Pakootas, Laura Hughes, Kylie Huerta and Hayley Hodgins have all led in points at least once. Eastern has had at least three different players score in double-figures in 11 of the last 15 games for an 11-4 record in those contests.
VALUE OF VERSATILITY...ON DEFENSE: Eastern also shares the wealth defensively, in both rebounding and steals. Seven different players have led in those categories 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 in the 2012-13 campaign.
NOT ONE FOR THE NAIL-BITER: Eastern Washington has not played in an overtime game in more than two years - the last one being a 76-73 loss to Idaho State on Feb. 5, 2011. In fact, 15 of Eastern’s 23 games this year have been decided by double digits. But that's not to say Eastern wouldn't fare well in a nail-biter, because in the nine games this year decided by less than 10 points, EWU is 7-2.
TOUGH SLATE: During the non-conference season, in which Eastern went 4-5, the team played two opponents (Cal, Gonzaga) who were either ranked or receiving votes in the 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, and who both have a .520 or better winning percentage at this point in the season. 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.
WHAT WENDY HAS DONE...
• 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. Behind Montana's Robin Selvig, who has been with the program for a whopping 35 years, Schuller is the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Sky in terms of years coaching in the conference. And the most successful years of those 12 has been the three most recent. In the last three seasons, Eastern has earned 30 Big Sky Conference wins, which is more than it had in the previous five seasons combined.
• Her 2009-10 squad captured the school's first-ever Big Sky regular-season title, and hosted the league tournament for the first time in school history. Schuller was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year after leading the squad to a 12-4 mark in the conference and 19-12 overall, which were the best records posted by an Eagle squad since the 1984-85 season when Eastern was still a member of the Mountain West Conference. That year, the Eagles advanced to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, marking the school’s first national postseason appearance since the 1987 season.
• It should also be noted that in 2009-10 - the year EWU won the Big Sky regular-season title - the Eagles were picked seventh in the preseason coaches' poll. Last year in 2011-12, the Eagles were again picked seventh, and ended up finishing third. And right now, Schuller's 2012-13 team, which was picked eighth in the preseason poll, is currently atop the Big Sky standings with a perfect 3-0 record.
• Schuller has had 13 different players named to one or more All-Big Sky Conference teams, including two league MVPs in Julie Piper (2010) and Brianne Ryan (2012), as well as the school’s first Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Julie Page, who competed in the 2012 London Olympics as a captain for the Great Britain national team.
• 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, and in 2003-04, the Eagles led the nation with a 3.63 grade point average.
• In the 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. Schuller's teams have in fact won two years in a row at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., which is a milestone in itself considering the Eagles as a program have only recorded four wins there throughout history. Former head coach Bill Smithpeters also won twice in Missoula - once in 1980, and again in 1987 when EWU upset Montana in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
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 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.
ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL...
Eastern Washington University head women’s basketball coach Wendy Schuller announced the signing of four high-school standouts to national letters of intent during the early signing period. Eastern’s 2013 recruiting class includes Spokane native Jade Redmon, 5-9 guard Bethany Montgomery out of Tacoma, Wash., 6-0 forward Haley Shaner from Sacramento, Calif., and 6-3 center Marly Anderson of Hillsboro, Ore., who ranks among the top 60 nationally for her position, according to Hoopgurlz.com.
Jade Redmon is a standout for Mead High School. She was a 2012 All-Greater Spokane League First-Team selection, averaging a team-leading 14.6 points per game during her junior campaign. A dual-sport athlete, Redmon also excelled as a member of the girls soccer team, earning All-GSL honorable mention accolades as a defender in 2011. Recently, she helped lead the Panthers to an Elite Eight berth in the 2012 4A State Soccer Championships.Outside of her high school career, Redmon plays for the eminent Northwest Blazers AAU team, under coach Steve Klees. In 2012, her Northwest Blazers Orange team earned a 43-2 record. The club team captured the End of Trail Music City Madness Tournament title in Nashville, Tenn., where Redmon was selected to the all-tournament team. The Orange also won the elite division championship at the MSNM Tournament in San Diego, Calif. Redmon comes from a family of successful collegiate athletes. Her older sister, Jazmine, is a junior point guard with the nationally-acclaimed Gonzaga women’s basketball team, while mother, Shaney, was a track and field athlete at Washington State University. Coincidentally, Shaney was coached at WSU by Eastern’s current head track and field coach, Marcia Mecklenburg.
Bethany Montgomery comes to Eastern from Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash. Montgomery is a three-time All-Narrows League selection, earning first-team honors as a freshman and junior, and second-team accolades as a sophomore. She was a Tacoma News Tribune All-Area second-team selection in 2012 and earned All-Area Honorable Mention from the Seattle Times that same year. As a junior, she averaged 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals for WHS. Montgomery led the Rams to a Narrows League title in 2012 with a perfect 10-0 record. Her team went on to finish second in the West Central District that year with a 20-4 overall mark. Montgomery also lettered in track and field, and was the Narrows League high jump champion in 2012. Montgomery has earned the WIAA Distinguished Scholastic Award for three-consecutive years and was a finalist for Tacoma Athlete of the Year in 2010.
Haley Shaner, a 6-0 forward out of West Campus
High School in Sacramento, Calif., is the reigning two-time Golden
Empire League MVP, and was a 2012 Sacramento Bee All-Metro
second-team selection. Averaging 16.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and just
over two assists, steals and blocks per game in 2012, Shaner led
her team a runner-up finish in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV
Championships. The Warriors reached the section title game for the
first time in school history after a 50-47 upset of rival Colfax in
the semifinals, which marked West Campus’ 19th-consecutive
win of the 2011-12 season. Shaner registered a game-high 14 points
and nine rebounds in the historic win. She also led her team to
two-consecutive Golden Empire League titles, including a perfect
10-0 run in 2012.
Marly Anderson is rated as the No. 55 recruit in the nation for her position, according to Hoopgurlz.com. She is a three-year starter for the Glencoe Crimson Tide in Hillsboro, Ore., and also plays for one of the top club teams in the nation - Team Concept. Anderson is a three-time All-Pacific Conference selection, which includes first-team honors in 2012. As a junior, she averaged 12.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game to help lead her team to a 6A-4 Pacific Conference regular-season title. Behind a 21-point, 12-rebound performance from Anderson in the opening round, the Crimson Tide advanced to the Elite Eight of the Class 6A Oregon State Championships in 2012. With Team Concept, Anderson played alongside 6-5 post Mercedes Russell - the nation’s top-rated recruit for 2013. The five-star recruit and Oregon Class 5A Player of the Year signed with Tennessee on Wednesday (Nov. 14).