February 26, 2008

EWU Plays Host to Second-Place Vikings

Feb. 26, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will play host to three of the top four teams in the Big Sky Conference standings to close out the 2007-08 season. First up will be Portland State, which at 9-4 (19-7 overall) is tied for second in the league standings. The Eagles and Vikings will face off at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (March 1).

Even though the Eagles (4-22, 1-12 BSC) have had a tough season, the team is looking to finish out on a strong note and, although this is the last place they wanted to be at this point in the season, will look to play spoiler.

"Obviously, we are very disappointed with where we are, but it is what it is," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We have a chance to throw a wrench into the Big Sky standings and the three teams we have coming up are in the Big Sky hunt."

Eastern's most recent outing saw the team play an up-and-down game in a 71-56 home loss to Northern Colorado. After the Eagles went up 8-2, UNC responded with a 20-5 run and kept Eastern Washington at bay until late in the contest. With 3:38 to go, Sydney Benson capped off a thrilling 14-2 run to cut EWU's deficit to 62-55 with an old-fashioned three-point play, but that would unfortunately be the closest the Eagles would get the rest of the way.

Individually, Nicole Scott recorded five blocks for the second straight game, tying her personal career high and an EWU season high. Tatjana Sparavalo had 18 points in the game and Jessica Huntington tallied six assists.

Kyla Evans was able to return to game action for the first time since Jan. 3, as she saw 16 minutes of floor time and nailed a three-point shot with 12:35 to go in the second half for her first points since that Jan. 3 game versus Northern Arizona.

The Vikings are in the midst of the Big Sky title chase, as Portland State's 9-4 league mark is tied with Idaho State and behind Montana (11-2 BSC). Most recently, the Vikings rallied from a tough 76-71 loss at Weber State on Feb. 16 for a convincing 82-60 home win over Northern Colorado on Thursday (Feb. 21).

Portland State has tied the school record for wins in a Division I season, tying the 1990-91 team, which went 19-8 as an independent. The Vikings have been dominating at home this year, going 12-0 in those games, but have played below-.500 ball in away games, earning a 6-7 record in those contests (PSU is 1-0 in neutral contests).

Claire Faucher leads all NCAA Division I players in assists per game with 8.8 - she is the only league player to currently lead a statistical category on a national basis. Her total of 19 versus Idaho State on Feb. 14 is the most recorded by a Division I player in a game so far this year.

Eastern has won 12 of the last 17 meetings between the schools, although Portland State has taken three of the four most recent contests. In the team's first meeting this year in the Rose City, the Eagles stayed within six deep into the second half, trailing 58-52 with just over seven minutes to play, before Portland State scored the next 14 points to pull away.

"Portland State has had a great season and is playing really well right now," Schuller said. "We know we are going to have our hands full with them. We played well at their place before we hit a funk in the last seven minutes."

 

Kyla's Back!

Freshman guard Kyla Evans was finally able to return to the basketball court this past Saturday (Feb. 23) versus Northern Colorado, as she saw 16 minutes of game time and nailed a three-point shot with 12:35 to go in the game for her first points since she last played in a Jan. 3 contest versus Northern Arizona.

She will be looking to play as much as possible the last three games of the season.

"I anticipate her going as far as she can on Saturday, but she has lost nearly two months of the season and of being in basketball speed, and I don't anticipate she will get back to where she was physically by the end of the season," head coach Wendy Schuller said.

"Basketball conditioning is so unique - we have our players run on the track, in the gym and a variety of places but they never get into basketball shape until they play basketball. Also, the footwork, foot speed, feel for the ball and just playing the game at a high rate of speed is tough to quickly get back into."

Evans has been writing a blog, talking about her first year as an NCAA Division I basketball player and as a college student. New blogs are available 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 3.00 three-point baskets per game and has shot 42.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Unfortunately, due to the stress reaction she had in her left foot, she missed 11 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 and can only reach 62 percent if she sees action in EWU's last three games).

As of Jan. 21, when Evans 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 11.8 points per game is the highest average on the team and, prior to her falling into the ineligible ranks, she ranked the highest among Big Sky freshmen in that category.

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 in that contest.

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

Versus Portland on Dec. 8, Evans 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.

 

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 195 this year for a total of 539.

Benson has tallied rebounds at a high rate in her career, evidenced by her current placement of ninth in the school record book for career rebounds per game (6.57).

The junior has also shot free throws at an high amount of accuracy throughout her Eagle career. This year, she has made 87-of-106 attempts (82.1 percent), good for a placing of 59th among NCAA Division I players this year and fourth in EWU school history.

In her career, Benson has made 76.5 percent (179-of-234), which currently places her second in that category in the Eastern Washington record book (first is Lisa Comstack, who was successful on 76.9 percent of her free throw attempts in her career, which lasted from the 1981-82 through the 1984-85 seasons).

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 tied for sixth in rebounds per game (7.5), seventh in free-throw shooting (82.1 percent), ninth in blocks per game (0.73) 12th in shooting percentage (44.4) and 16th in points per game (11.6).

 

Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 5.32 per contest, the third-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 28th-best among NCAA Division I players.

That average was bolstered by a 10-assist performances on Jan. 26 versus Portland State and on Feb. 16 against Idaho State. The ISU contest saw Huntington have a spectacular 10-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio. No Eagle had previously recorded double-digit steal totals since Michelle Demetruk had 11 against Portland State on Jan. 25, 2003.

Huntington had nine more helpers against Montana State on Jan. 31.

She also had nine assists on three other occasions this year, versus Akron on Nov. 22, against UC Irvine on Nov. 30 and versus Montana State on Jan. 31.

Her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.85, 133-to-72) is the fifth-best in the league and 41st-best nationally, while her steals per game average of 1.08 places her 14th on that list.

 

Scott vs. NAU, in Big Sky Rankings

Nicole Scott had 19 points on Feb. 9 to help lead the Eagles to a 69-62 win over Northern Arizona, snapping Eastern's 12-game losing streak.

She contributed 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, and Eastern kept the Lumberjacks at least five points away the rest of the game.

The sophomore set an Eagle season high in blocks against Idaho State on Feb. 16 with five and then met that mark on Saturday (Feb. 23) versus Northern Colorado. That total is also an Eagle season high.

Scott had a good game in EWU's 95-86 loss to San Francisco on Dec. 18, scoring 20 points, 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, the sophomore nailed 4-of-5 three-point attempts.

She is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference: second in blocks per game (1.27), 12th in rebounds per game (6.1) and 17th in points per game (10.7).

 

Serbian Sensation

Freshman Tatjana Sparavalo has had some impressive performances this season.

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 and the momentum in the contest.

In Eastern's 82-74 loss to Pacific on Dec. 21, the freshman 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 was at the time the most points scored by an Eagle so far this year and remains the second-most.

On Feb. 16, she had an incredible first half, making 9-of-11 shots and going into the break with 20 points before finishing with an Eagle season-high 24 tallies.

Sparavalo has scored at least 12 points in 12-of-16 games after tallying just 24 combined points in her first nine games (2.7 per game).

Her hot play has allowed Sparavalo to enter the Big Sky Conference's statistical rankings in points per game, where she currently ranks 21st (9.8), and in free throw shooting (15th at 72.6 percent).

When Big Sky games only are considered, she ties for 10th in points per game (13.6) and is the highest-ranking freshman in that category by 11 spots (next is Northern Colorado's Kate Kevorken at 21st with 10.3 points per game).

 

Awesome Amy Hits From Outside

Junior Amy Bratvold entered the Big Sky Conference statistical rankings for the first time several weeks ago, and she is now 11th among league players in three-point shooting percentage (33.8).

Bratvold has also posted double-digit point totals in 8-of-14 contests after doing so just once in her previous 12 appearances. She averaged 5.6 points per game in EWU's non-conference slate of games and is scoring 9.4 points per contest in league contests, good for 25th in the league in that category.

 

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 listed in the Big Sky rankings, as she has played less than 75 percent of Eastern's games (she will end the season at 55 percent).

On Feb. 4, when she was last eligible to be ranked, Baker placed 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 had 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 remainingbefore falling 82-74.

The 60.6 percent shooting average in the second half (20-of-33) was Eastern's best shooting half since the Eagles made 62.5 percent of its shot attempts (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 second-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 for the fall quarter with a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. That marked Eastern's second victory 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 was able to cruise to its 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, Eastern was burned by its 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.

 

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."

 

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 the make was no fluke, as she has made 23 in the regular season and even nailed 4-of-5 from beyond the three-point stripe versus Montana on Feb. 2.

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