January 1, 2008

Eagles Open Big Sky Slate on Thursday

Jan. 1, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team is looking for a fresh start to its 2007-08 campaign this week, as Big Sky Conference play begins with road games against Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. The Eagles head to Flagstaff, Ariz., to take on NAU at 5:35 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday (Jan. 3) before meeting the Hornets in California's capital city at 2:05 p.m. two days later.

This will mark the second straight year and third time in four seasons that the Eagles have commenced league play on the road.

That does not however seem to affect EWU, as the Eagles have claimed five straight conference openers. That streak started on this exact road trip, as Eastern defeated NAU 59-52 on Jan. 16, 2003, before heading to Sacramento to topple the Hornets, 69-40. In the 2003-04 season, the Eagles beat the same teams in their initial two league contests, that time at home.

A 77-46 road win over Portland State got the Eagles off to a 1-0 start in the 2004-05 Big Sky campaign, as did a 78-76 home victory over PSU the following season. Last year, the Eagles outlasted Montana State in Bozeman by a 69-66 score to start 1-0 in league play.

The Lumberjacks (4-9)got off to a 4-4 start this year, but have suffered some tough times as of late, as NAU will enter Thursday's contest with a five-game losing streak. The match-ups between the teams have been even as of late, as the squads have split their last eight meetings. The Lumberjacks took both games played between the foes last year, 66-63 in Cheney and 76-57 in Flagstaff.

The Hornets enter league play with the worst non-conference record among league teams, as Sacramento State has struggled through its season so far with a 2-10 mark. The wins came against San Jose State 60-57 and Pacific 87-85, although the Hornets held close with 10-3 Santa Clara before falling to the Broncos 67-60. The Eagles have won three straight and 11-of-14 meetings with Sacramento State, including earning 74-56 (home) and 66-63 (away) wins in last year's match-ups.

The Eagles are 3-10 and will enter league play with a three-game losing streak, the last contest being a 97-61 loss to three-time defending West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga. Eastern went down early 26-6 and the Bulldogs pulled away from there.

"This is an important weekend for us," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "It's a big road trip. It is very important that we establish ourselves and put ourselves in a good position to get wins on the road. We're all 0-0 and fighting for a chance for a Big Sky championship.

"We have to take care of our business - against Gonzaga we were not real pleased with our defensive transition, and our communication was not where it needs to be. We worked really hard our last few days in practice to prepare ourselves for Northern Arizona.

"NAU is always a tough place to play, and I know they are going to be prepared and play hard. And then no matter what happens, at 10 that night we will start worrying about Sac State and that portion of our trip."

 

Looking Back at Christmas Week in Cali

The Eagles started off a two-game road trip by compiling their highest point total in 31 games, but falling short of San Francisco 95-86 on Dec. 18. The 86 points scored were the most by an Eastern team since a 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 9, 2006. Eastern did rally late in the USF contest, however, using a 6-0 run to pull within five points at 84-79 with 2:25 left.

In EWU's game with Pacific on Dec. 21, the Eagles shot a sizzling 61 percent in the second half and rallied from a 70-53 deficit with 4:34 left by utilizing a 14-2 run to trail by just 72-67 with 1:52 remaining.

The 60.6 percent shooting average in the second half (20-of-33) is Eastern's best shooting half since making 62.5 percent of its shots (15-of-24) in the second half of a 77-50 win over Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006.

Tatjana Sparavalo was on fire in the second half of that contest, nailing 9-of-11 shots in that stanza. She scored all 23 of her points in that stanza, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It's also the most points scored by an Eagle so far in the 2007-08 season.

 

Getting Hot Around Final Exams

The Eagles returned to the court after completing finals with a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. That marked Eastern's second win in three games.

In the UGF game, two Eagles had school-record performances. Sydney Benson topped off a double-double performance (11 points, 10 rebounds) with a record-tying seven steals. Kyla Evans set a school mark in three-point attempts as she made 6-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-21 from the field) and scored a then-EWU season-high 22 points.

The Eagles were helped by 23 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points in the game. Eastern also rallied from a 28-21 rebound deficit at the half to out-rebound UGF 24-12 in the second stanza.

The week before, the Eagles defeated Idaho 65-53 and lost to Portland 85-58.

Against the Vandals, Eastern's defense led the way. The Eagles not only held Idaho scoreless for a 5:39 span in a 17-0 run but actually did not allow a Vandal field goal to tickle the twine for a 14:15 span. By the time that stretch was over, EWU held a commanding 57-40 lead and cruised to the win from there.

Tatjana Sparavalo helped jump start the Eagles at the end of the first half of that contest. She contributed an old-fashioned three-point play with 14 seconds left and then had a spectacular pass to Julie Piper for a lay-up at the first-half horn to give EWU a 40-34 halftime edge.

In the game with Portland, a team which at 7-3 was off to one of its best starts in school history, the Eagles were burned by their 28 turnovers. Every other aspect of the game was relatively similar between the teams, as each team shot 44 percent from the floor and UP held just a 40-35 advantage in rebounds.

Evans scored 20 points in the contest, which had tied for an Eagle season high at the time.

 

Kyla's Blog - Everyone's Reading It!

After taking a Christmas break from her blog to spend time with her family, freshman guard Kyla Evans' new blog is now available on the women's basketball page WWW.GOEAGS.COM. Make sure to read about her Christmas in Brewster with the Serbians.

Evans has been writing her blog on a weekly basis, detailing her life adjusting to her first year in college and as an NCAA Division I basketball player.

On the court, Evans has shot lights out from three-point range, as she ranks seventh among all NCAA Division I players in three-point makes per game and 33rd in three-point shooting percentage in the latest NCAA rankings which includes games played through Dec. 16. She ranks first (3.15) and sixth (42.7) among Big Sky Conference players in those respective categories.

Also, Evans is in 10th place in the league and tops on the team in scoring average (13.7), tied for 13th in the Big Sky in blocks per game (0.54) and is 15th in overall shooting percentage (41.4).

Evans set a school mark in three-point attempts in Eastern's game with Great Falls on Dec. 15, as she made 6-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-21 from the field) to score a then-EWU season-high 22 points.

She would tie her own record for three-point attempts with 14 against San Francisco on Dec. 18.

Against Portland on Dec. 8, she had her second 20-point scoring performance of the year (she also had that many points against Nevada on Nov. 15).

She had an incredible start to her collegiate career, as the freshman nailed eight of her first 10 three-point shots. She made 5-of-7 against Montana Tech on Nov. 11, which is tied for the best three-point shooting performance (71.4 percent) by a Big Sky player so far this year.

 

Sensational Serbian

Freshman Tatjana Sparavalo has had some notable performances the last few weeks.

She showed a glimpse of what was to come at the end of the first half of Eastern Washington's 65-53 win over Idaho on Dec. 5. She contributed an old-fashioned three-point play with 14 seconds left and then had a spectacular pass to Julie Piper for a lay-up at the first-half horn to give EWU a 40-34 halftime edge.

In Eastern's 82-74 loss to Pacific on Dec. 21, she was on fire in the second half, nailing 9-of-11 shots in that stanza. She scored all 23 of her points scored in that game in that stanza, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It is also the most points scored by an Eagle so far in the 2007-08 season.

She has scored at least eight points in each of her last three games.

 

Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 4.42 per contest, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 37th among NCAA Division I players.

Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.61, 53-to-33) is the fourth-highest in the league and 89th-best nationally.

In Eastern Washington's 66-62 loss to Akron on Nov. 22, she contributed nine assists to the Eagle cause. She also had nine against UC Irvine on Nov. 30.

Those totals are the most posted by an Eastern player since Leah Gonnella had nine versus Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006. Nobody has had more than nine since Michelle Demetruk tallied 11 against Portland State on Jan. 25, 2003.

 

All-Around Baker

Katy Baker has been an outstanding all-around steady player for the Eagles, as she ranks high on the Big Sky Conference's statistical charts in four different categories.

She is seventh in the league in steals per game and leads the team in that category with 1.46, is seventh in assists per game (3.08), seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.82, 40-to-49), and 14th in the league in scoring average (11.7).

She has also contributed double-digit point totals in nine different games so far this season.

 

Scott in the Big Sky Rankings, vs. USF

Nicole Scott is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is tied for fourth in blocks per game (0.92), is 13th in rebounds per game (6.2), 13th in field goal percentage (42.4) and 19th in points per game (9.8).

She scored 20 points in EWU's 95-86 loss to San Francisco on Dec. 18, tied for the third-highest point total earned by an Eagle this year and just three off of her career high. She made 7-of-12 baskets in that game, including 3-of-6 from three-point territory. Scott also pulled down six rebounds in the contest.

 

Benson Ties Records, Ranks in BSC

Sydney Benson tied a school record with seven steals in a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. She now shares that mark with five different players (that total was last recorded by Joanna Chadd versus Denver on Jan. 8, 2004). She also had a double-double in that contest, scoring 11 points and pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds.

She is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is fourth in free-throw shooting (82.5 percent), sixth in rebounds per game (7.5), tied for sixth in blocks per game (0.85) and 22nd in points per game (9.0).

 

Give Me That Ball!

The Eagles as a team are ranked highly in various rebounding categories as well as in blocks.

Eastern is third in the league in blocks per game (3.69), tied for first in allowing the fewest amount of opponent rebounds (37.8), tied for third in rebounding margin (-0.6) and fifth in rebounds per game (37.2).

 

What Shooting Performances

The Eagles had a pair of outstanding shooting performances in their first two games of the 2007-08 season.

Against Montana Tech in the season-opening contest on Nov. 11, the Eagles shot 50.0 percent from beyond the three-point arc (10-of-20) and 91.7 percent from the free throw line (11-of-12).

Eastern Washington then shot 50.0 percent on three-point shots (4-of-8) against Nevada on Nov. 15. That percentage on three-point shots had been surpassed just two times in the past three seasons.

 

Quartet Signs with Eagles

Four players have signed letters of intent on Nov. 14 to attend Eastern Washington University and play for the women's basketball squad, head coach Wendy Schuller announced. The signees will begin their Eastern careers in 2008-09 after inking their names on the first day of the NCAA early signing period.

The new players include Pauline Ferrall, a 6-2 post from Carmel (Calif.) High School, Breauna Russell, a 5-6 guard from Washington H.S. in Phoenix, Ariz., Brianne Ryan, a 6-0 guard from Lynden Christian High School in Lynden, Wash., and Meaghan White, a 6-2 forward from Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore.

"Just looking at the credentials of this class is very exciting," Schuller said. "We have added young ladies who are outstanding individuals, exceptional basketball players and winners. I am very pleased with the recruiting efforts of (associate head coach and recruiting coordinator) Tom Webb and our entire staff and team.

"We have assembled a class that will fit in well with our team and has the ability to help take us to the next level. I love the enthusiasm of this group and know they are great additions to our Eastern Washington women's basketball family."

 

And the Honors Go To ...

Eastern Washington as a team was honored over the summer, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the sixth consecutive season the Eagles had ranked 10th or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.

 

Eagles Picked Seventh

Eastern Washington was picked seventh in both the preseason coaches poll and in the preseason media poll. The polls were nearly identical from the top down:

• 1) Montana
• 2) Idaho State
• 3) Montana State
• 4) Weber State (coaches), Northern Arizona (media)
• 5) Northern Arizona (coaches), Weber State (media)
• 6) Portland State
• 7) Eastern Washington
• 8) Sacramento State
• 9) Northern Colorado

 

54s are Wild

With Nov. 7's exhibition game between Eastern Washington and Central Washington wrapping down, the score was tied 54-54 with 54 seconds left. Then Eastern's #54 player Nicole Scott nailed the first-three point shot she had ever made in an Eagle uniform to give the Eagles a 57-54 lead with 35 seconds left that they would not relinquish.

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