Nov. 22, 2006
Coming off an impressive showing against Washington, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has another challenge on its hands. The Eagles will head to San Antonio, Texas, for the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic and take on the host UTSA Roadrunners before battling No. 9 LSU. Eastern's first game begins at 5 p.m. PT on Friday (Nov. 24) and the second commences at noon on Saturday (Nov. 25).
The Eagles have never previously played either the Roadrunners or the Lady Tigers.
UTSA is 0-4 on the season with two of its setbacks coming by less than 10 points. Most recently, the Roadrunners dropped a 69-63 decision to New Mexico State. The squad's first home game of 2006-07 is Friday versus the Eagles.
The Roadrunners are led in the scoring column by Vivian Ewalefo, who is averaging 18.5 points per game. The team was picked third in the preseason Southland Conference polls.
Last year, UTSA went 18-12, 11-5 in SLC play, good for a third-place finish. In the SLC Tournament, the Roadrunners came within one win of the NCAA Tournament, falling to regular-season champion Stephen F. Austin, 56-48, in the title contest.
LSU is coming off its first loss of the season and will bring into its opening contest of the tournament versus Tulsa a 5-1 mark. After starting its season with a quintet of comfortable wins (the closest decision was a 20-point victory at Tulane, 59-39), the Lady Tigers fell on the road to No. 15 Baylor, 64-60.
The scoring leader for the Lady Tigers is Sylvia Fowles, who is averaging 16.5 points per game. LSU was picked third in the preseason Southeastern Conference poll. In 2005-06, the team went 31-4 (13-1 in the SEC) and advanced to the Final Four.
The Eagles are 3-1 after sandwiching a pair of home wins around an impressive 20-point road win over UC Irvine to go 3-0 and holding tough with Washington before falling to the Huskies by eight.
Runs are the theme of the EWU Eagles in 2006-07. In the team's season-opening 75-69 win over Montana Tech, Eastern broke away from a 67-all tie with 2:02 remaining by going on a 7-0 spurt. Earlier in the contest, Eastern Washington erased an eight-point Oredigger lead with a 12-2 run and would later add a 14-2 run.
The squad's next contest saw Eastern and UC Irvine stay close throughout the first half before EWU used a 22-5 run early in the second half to pull away and win comfortably, 80-60.
The Eagles utilized a 30-9 run in the middle of their next game to run away from Corban College and defeat the Warriors, 96-57.
On Tuesday (Nov. 21), Washington took control of the game early, going up 12-2 and extending its lead to as high as 15. At that point, however, Eastern responded by going on a timely 17-4 run to tie the contest at 42-all with 11:29 remaining. The Eagles and Huskies went down to the wire, as UW held a precarious two-point lead with 5:08 left and a four-point advantage with 1:49 remaining before holding on for its win.
In EWU's victory over Montana Tech, the Eagles were led by Chadd (16 points, 4-of-9 shooting on three-pointers), Katy Baker (13 points, seven rebounds), Brittney Osborn (14 points, five rebounds), Jessica Huntington (five rebounds), Tara Holgate (three blocks) and Nicole Scott (four blocks). The latter two players helped Eastern to a convincing 10-0 blocks advantage in the contest.
In the win over UC Irvine, Baker had her first career double-double at Eastern Washington in just her second game, tallying 16 points and earning 11 rebounds. Three other Eagles contributed double-digit point totals: Ashley Knight (14), Holgate (10) and Joanna Chadd (10).
Chadd led the Eagles to their win over Corban College with a sizzling 66.7 shooting percentage from the three-point line (6-of-9 -- overall, she shot 64.3 percent, 9-of-14). She tallied 24 points in the contest. That point total is the second-highest she has had in her four years at Eastern. Her record is 25, which she had on Jan. 17, 2004, in a 67-49 home win over Sacramento State.
Also contributing significantly to the win where Sydney Benson (eight points on 4-of-8 shooting and a game-high 11 rebounds), Leah Gonnella (15 points, six rebounds), Osborn (13 points) and Scott (12 points).
Benson contributed a double-double to Eastern's efforts against Washington by contributing 12 points, a career high, and 10 rebounds. She also earned EWU's three blocks on the night. Phynique Allen was Eastern's leading scorer with 14 points.
Eastern Washington is led in the scoring column by Joanna Chadd, who is averaging 14.3 points per game, which includes an impressive 24-point performance in Eastern's win over Corban College. Three other players are averaging nine points per game or higher: Brittney Osborn (9.5), Katy Baker (9.5) and Phynique Allen (9.3).
Joanna Chadd is sizzling from the three-point line, hitting 46.2 percent of her shots from that distance (12-of-26). Overall from the floor, the senior is hitting at a 50.0 percent clip (21-of-42). She ranks eighth in the Big Sky Conference in three-point shooting percentage, but nobody else in the top 10 comes close to the number of attempts she has (11 is the second-highest attempt total, well short of Chadd's 26).
Get that ball out of here! Two Eagles are among the top five in the Big Sky Conference in blocks per game: Sydney Benson (1.75 per game, third) and Nicole Scott (1.25 per game, fifth). The team as a whole leads the league in blocks per game with 5.25.
Give me another shot! The Eagles also pace the Big Sky Conference in offensive rebounds per game with 17.75. On the other side of the court, Eastern is third in defensive rebounds per contest (29.5).
The Eagles have compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference campaigns for the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. In 2004-05, the Eagles went 8-6 in Big Sky play, 16-12 overall.
EWU enters the 2006-07 campaign having qualified for the six-team Big Sky Conference Tournament in each of head coach Wendy Schuller's five years at the helm of the Eagles. Overall, Eastern has participated in seven consecutive tournaments after only playing in three the first 11 years that the BSC sponsored women's sports.
The roster, as always, has a strong Washington flair to it, as nine of the 14 players reside in the Evergreen State. Four of those are from cities located east of the Cascades: Katy Baker (Spokane), Anny Eller (Kennewick), Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each is from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.
The Eagles are coming off a 13-15 (7-7 Big Sky Conference) season, which saw EWU finish in a fourth-place tie in the regular-season standings. As the fourth seed, its highest seed in the tourney since 1995, Eastern fell in the Big Sky Conference quarterfinals to No. 5 Weber State, 74-69.
The Eagles were selected fifth (tied with Portland State) in the Big Sky's media poll, while EWU placed sixth in the coaches poll. The favorite chosen by the media was defending tournament champion Northern Arizona, while the coaches were not able to differentiate between defending regular-season champ Idaho State and Montana, as the two teams tied for their top spot.
After qualifying for three Big Sky Tournament semifinal contests in the past five years, the Eagles' goal in 2006-07 is to claim the conference championship. EWU qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1987 after claiming the Mountain West Conference (predecessor to the Big Sky Conference in women's athletics) Tournament championship with a 77-74 win at Montana in the title contest. The Eagles fell at Oregon in NCAA play, 75-56.
Eastern Washington as a team was honored recently, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the fourth consecutive season that the Eagles had ranked third or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.
This season's non-conference schedule will serve as ample challenge for the Eagles, as the team prepares itself for the Big Sky Conference schedule. Included in the slate of contests will be a game versus No. 9 LSU.
Schuller on the Washington Game
"I was very proud of our effort. We played extremely hard for 40 minutes and that's our No. 1 goal every time we step out on the floor. I am pleased that our kids are doing a lot of growing up. Sydney had 12 and 10 and gave everything she had; she battled. Tara Holgate gave good minutes as did Nicole Scott. I am proud of our young big kids; they took it to them."
Schuller on What EWU Needs to Work On
"The three things we need to do in order to take the step to the next level is to get better at rebounding and boxing out, making baskets - tonight, we got to the rim and made things happen but could not finish - and our free throw shooting needs to get better - 62 percent from the line at home is not good enough to win (in the UW contest). If we do those things better, I feel very good about our team and what we are capable of doing."