Last Road Trip of Regular Season Awaits

Feb. 12, 2008

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One last road trip. The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team hits the road this week for the final time in the 2007-08 regular season with contests against Weber State and Idaho State. The Eagles take on the Wildcats at 6:05 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday (Feb. 14) before playing ISU at 1:05 p.m. two days later.

The Eagles are coming off an emotional 69-62 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday (Feb. 9) which snapped the team's 12-game losing streak, their longest in 10 years.

"There's definitely a sense of happiness and relief in the locker room," head coach Wendy Schuller said following the win.

"We've been fighting hard. I'm proud of our team for overcoming adversity, staying positive and staying together. Teams can get nitpicky when times get hard, and our team has not done that at all. They have really come together and have been a pleasure to coach."

Two days before that, Eastern Washington (4-19, 1-9 BSC) came close to a win and played well in an 81-72 loss to Sacramento State. The Eagles held close the entire game and trailed by just two, 69-67, with 2:56 to play before the Hornets pulled away.

Weber State will enter the week with a 9-12 record, 3-6 in Big Sky play. Most recently, the Wildcats defeated Northern Colorado on the road, 60-50, in a game played on Thursday. After starting the season 6-3, Weber State has had a tough time as of late, going 3-9 since then.

When the teams met in Cheney, Wash., on Jan. 12, the Wildcats prevailed by a 68-49 score. Weber State has won four straight meetings between the teams, and the Eagles will be looking to snap a 21-game losing streak to the Wildcats in Ogden, Utah, on Thursday.

"Weber State is really hitting the groove on the defensive end, and we know they are going to defend their home court and play really hard," Schuller said. "Offensively, we have got to execute because Weber is a really good defensive team."

Idaho State, the defending Big Sky champion, has its sights on repeating. The Bengals are right in the thick of the regular-season title race (and the right to host the Championship), as ISU sits in a first-place tie with Montana at 7-2 in league play. Idaho State is 15-6 overall and has won three straight contests going into its home game with third-place Portland State (17-6, 7-3 BSC) on Thursday.

The Bengals have won six straight times against Eastern, including a 76-69 victory in Cheney on Jan. 10. Idaho State has claimed four straight victories over EWU in Pocatello, Idaho.

"Idaho State is a high-powered offensive team that wants to get it up and down and really get it going," Schuller said. "We have to switch gears quickly from Thursday to Saturday (playing a defensive-minded team to an offensive one).

"They are in the hunt for the conference championship, and I am sure they are going to treat this game with a lot of intensity and seriousness; we know we are going to have our hands full with them."

Following the two road games this week, the Eagles close out the regular season with four straight at home. The first two will be part of a light stretch of the schedule, as Eastern will play just twice from Feb. 17-March 5, an 18-day span. First up will be Northern Colorado (11-12, 5-5 BSC) at 2:05 p.m. on Feb. 23.

 

Kyla's Blog - Everyone's Reading It!

Freshman guard Kyla Evans has been writing a weekly blog, talking about her first year as an NCAA Division I basketball player and as a college student. New blogs are available each week on the women's basketball page at WWW.GOEAGS.COM. Every blog in its entirety can be found under "Features" on the women's basketball home page.

On the court, Evans has shot lights out from three-point range, as she has made 3.14 three-point baskets per game and has shot 43.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Unfortunately, due to a stress reaction in her left foot, she has missed the last seven games and is no longer eligible to be ranked in the Big Sky Conference and NCAA Division I statistical charts (she needs to have played in 75 percent of Eastern's games).

As of Jan. 21, when she was last eligible, the freshman was sixth in the NCAA Division I ranks for three-point makes and 24th in percentage (first and fifth in the league in those respective categories).

Her 12.4 points per game is the highest average on the team and, prior to her falling into the ineligible ranks, was the highest among Big Sky freshmen.

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) and scored 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.

Versus 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).

Evans 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 in the season opener versus Montana Tech on Nov. 11, tied for the second best three-point shooting performance by a Big Sky player this year (71.4 percent).

 

Syd Earns Her 500th Rebound

With 64 seconds to play in Missoula, Mont., on Feb. 4, Sydney Benson pulled down her 500th career rebound. After tallying 100 her freshman year and 244 the season after that, she has now compiled 165 this year for a total of 509.

Benson has tallied rebounds at a high rate in her career, evidenced by her current placement of 10th in the school record book for career rebounds per game (6.44).

The junior has also shot free throws at an high amount of accuracy throughout her career. This year, she has made 77-of-94 attempts (81.9 percent), good for a placing of 72nd among NCAA Division I players this year and fourth in EWU school history. In her career, she has made 76.1 percent (169-of-222), which currently places her second in that category in the EWU record book.

On Dec. 15, Benson tied a school mark 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). That sum is also tied for a Big Sky Conference season-high total. She also had a double-double in that contest, scoring 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Benson had an incredible hot streak from Dec. 18-Jan. 5 when she led the Eagles in points per game at 15.6 and shot at a 59.6 percent rate from the floor.

The junior is impressively ranked in five different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is sixth in free-throw shooting (81.9 percent), seventh in rebounds per game (7.2), eighth in blocks per game (0.74) 10th in shooting percentage (44.6) and 17th in points per game (10.6).

 

Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 5.05 per contest, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 33rd-best among NCAA Division I players.

That average was bolstered by a 10-assist performance on Jan. 26 versus Portland State and nine more helpers against Montana State on Thursday (Jan. 31). In the PSU game, she became the first Eagle to attain double digits in that statistical category since Michelle Demetruk had 11 against Portland State on Jan. 25, 2003.

She also had nine assists on two other occasions this year, in Eastern Washington's 66-62 loss to Akron on Nov. 22 and on Nov. 30 versus UC Irvine on Nov. 30. Against Sacramento State on Jan. 5, she contributed eight helpers.

Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71, 111-to-65) is the fifth-best in the league and 61st-best nationally.

Huntington has also played nearly every minute for the Eagles as of late, as she has played in 199:42 of the past 200 minutes.

 

Scott in the Big Sky Rankings, vs. USF

Nicole Scott had 19 points on Saturday (Feb. 9) to help lead the Eagles to a 69-62 win over Northern Arizona, snapping the team's 12-game losing streak. She had a number of timely baskets late in the contest to keep the Lumberjacks at bay.

With the Eagles up by a perilous six-point margin with nine minutes to play, 49-43, having made just one of their last nine shot attempts, Scott proceeded to nail her next three shots to keep NAU from cutting into the lead. The latter of those three baskets earned the Eagles a 56-47 advantage with 5:34 to play. Eastern kept the Lumberjacks at least five points away the rest of the way to finish off its win.

She is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is third in blocks per game (0.96), 12th in rebounds per game (6.2) and 17th in points per game (10.6).

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 that contest.

Against Montana on Feb. 2, she nailed a number of shots from outside, as she made 4-of-5 three-point attempts.

 

Serbian Sensation

Freshman Tatjana Sparavalo has had some impressive performances the last several 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 before the break 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 in that half, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It is also the most points scored by an Eagle so far this year.

She has scored at least 12 points in 10-of-13 games after tallying just 24 combined points in her first nine games. She is averaging 13.5 points per game in that 13-game span.

Her hot play has allowed Sparavalo to enter the Big Sky Conference's statistical rankings in points per game, where she ranks 21st (9.0).

When Big Sky games only are considered, she ranks 12th in points per game with 13.2 and is the highest-ranking freshman in that category.

 

Awesome Amy Hits From Outside

Junior Amy Bratvold entered the Big Sky Conference statistical rankings for the first time a couple weeks ago, and she is now 14th among league players in three-point shooting percentage (34.7) and tied for 14th in three-point makes per game (1.09). She is now also ranked in the scoring list, as her 7.8 points per game average places her 30th in the league.

Bratvold has also posted double-digit point totals in 7-of-11 contests after doing so just once in her previous 12 appearances.

 

All-Around Baker

Katy Baker has been an outstanding all-around steady player for the Eagles, as she ranked high on the Big Sky Conference's statistical charts in five different categories before a season-ending injury in the game with Idaho State on Jan. 10 ended her season.

She is now ineligible to be ranked in the Big Sky rankings, as she has played less than 75 percent of Eastern's games (currently 70 percent).

On Feb. 4, when she was last eligible to be ranked, Baker was eighth in assists per game (3.31), ninth in steals per game (1.38), 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.95, 53-to-56), 14th in free-throw shooting (74.1 percent) and 15th in points per game (11.1).

She also contributed double-digit point totals in 11 different contests this season.

 

Looking Back at Christmas Week

The Eagles started off a two-game road trip to the Golden State 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 Washington did rally late in the USF contest, however, using a 6-0 spurt to pull within five points at 84-79 with 2:25 left in the contest.

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 the Eagles made 62.5 percent of its shots (15-of-24) after the break of a 77-50 win over Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006.

Tatjana Sparavalo was on fire in the second half of that Pacific 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 for a game of 12. It is 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 fall quarter finals with a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. That marked Eastern's second win in three games.

In the UGF contest, 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 that contest, which had tied for an Eagle season high at the time.

 

What Shooting Performances

The Eagles had a pair of outstanding shooting performances in their first two games of the 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 attempts had been surpassed just two times in the past three seasons.

The Eagles however did just that once again on Jan. 10 versus Idaho State, making 7-of-12 three-pointers (58.3 percent) in that contest.

 

Quartet Signs with Eagles

Four players 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."

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

Scott has shown that that make was no fluke, as she has made 16 in the regular season, and nailed 4-of-5 from beyond the three-point stripe versus Montana on Saturday (Feb. 2).

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