November 25, 2008

Eagles Start Busy Stretch at Idaho

Nov. 25, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team looks to continue improving over the next two weeks, a stretch that will see the Eagles play six times in four different states in a 12-day span.

First up will be a short 80-mile trip south to take on Idaho at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 25). Then the team will head to Las Vegas, Nev., for the Lady Rebel Round-Up. There Eastern plays the host UNLV squad at 3:30 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 28) before taking on either Cal State Fullerton or Georgia at 11:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. the following day.

The following week sees Eastern play host to Montana Tech and Gonzaga on Tuesday (Dec. 2) and Dec. 4, respectively, before traveling to Utah State on Dec. 6.

Eastern is coming off of one of its best shooting performances in years, as the Eagles shot at a 55.6 clip (30-of-54) in an 80-70 victory over San Francisco on Friday (Nov. 21). The last time an Eastern Washington squad shot that well was on Feb. 12, 2005, when the Eagles shot 57.8 percent (26-of-45) on its way to an 81-56 victory over the Vikings.

“Our shot selection was really good,” head coach Wendy Schuller said. “The players took shots that were the best shots for the team and shots they were good at knocking down. That was a really nice step forward for us.

“San Francisco is a really good basketball team from a good basketball league, and I thought we stepped up to the challenge. It was nice for us to defend our home floor, as well.”

Kyla Evans shot extremely well in the USF game, as she made 8-of-10 shots. The three-point specialist was covered tightly on the outside that night and adjusted her game by taking shots from nearly every spot on the court, only two of them from three-point range. She finished with 20 points in the game.

The win was also the team’s first when trailing at the half (EWU was down 38-33 at that point) since Eastern responded to a 29-27 deficit to Sacramento State on Feb. 24, 2007, by outscoring the Hornets by five in the second half of a 66-63 victory. It marked the fourth year in a row Eastern Washington has won its home opener.

Idaho is off to a 0-3 start against top opposition, as the Vandals have fallen to Texas Tech 90-55, Montana 55-36 and Colorado State 69-60.

“(Head coach) John (Newlee) does a great job, and their players play hard for him,” Schuller said. “That’s going to be a battle.”

UNLV has started its 2008-09 campaign with a perfect 3-0 mark, having won three-straight home games over Sacramento State 92-71, Southern Utah 71-58 and Nevada 66-53.

Cal State Fullerton is 2-1 with home victories over Santa Clara 62-46 and Saint Mary’s 88-74 sandwiching a road loss to UCLA 78-62.

Georgia is also 2-1, as the Lady Bulldogs opened with a home 85-35 win over Alabama State before defeating Oakland on the road 64-61 and falling at Detroit Mercy 70-66.

“This is a good tournament,” Schuller said. “It is loaded with teams and athletes, and we are definitely going to have our hands full.

“We are going to get better in a hurry (playing six times in 12 days),” Schuller said. “We are going to get a lot of things ironed out pretty fast in terms of rotations and roles. Nothing you do in practice can simulate a game experience, and we are going to get a lot of that over the next couple weeks.”

Junior About to Enter Assist List   
    
Just two games into her junior season at Eastern Washington, point guard Jessica Huntington is nearing entrance into the all-time career assists top-10 list for the Eagles. She currently has 215, while the 10th spot is currently held by Alice Davis, who had 217 from the 1983-84 through 1984-85 seasons.

Kyla Nails Shots From Everywhere 
Sophomore guard Kyla Evans is shooting lights out so far in 2008-09, as she is leading all Big Sky Conference players in shooting percentage, 69.4 (13-of-19).

She has also made 60.0 percent of her three-point attempts (6-of-10), which ranks her second in the league in that category.

In her last outing in an 80-70 win over San Francisco on Friday (Nov. 21), she was on fire, hitting 8-of-10 attempts from the floor. USF played her tight the entire night from three-point range, so Evans adjusted her game and took shots from just about every spot on the floor, only two of which were from beyond the three-point stripe.

“She really improved her mid-range game this summer, spending a lot of time working on pull-up jumpers and those kinds of moves,” head coach Wendy Schuller said. “That was what she really had to pull out of her bag San Francisco because they were not letting her get any open looks. She did a really nice job knocking those shots down.”

Eagles Lead Sky in 5 Categories       
Although it is obviously very early in the 2008-09 season, Eastern Washington is off to a good start in the statistical rankings. Five Eagles possess the top spot in five different categories.

Kyla Evans is setting the pace in points per game (17.5), Julie Piper is leading all Big Sky players in rebounds per game (9.0), Evans has the best shooting percentage in the league (69.4), Nicole Scott leads in blocks per game (2.00), and Evans is tied for the top spot in three-point makes per game (3.00).

Eastern players take up a total of 15 spots in the various top-10 lists. A complete list of Eastern’s placement in the Big Sky’s statistical lists may be found on page 5 of this PDF.

Excellence from Free Throw Line 
   
A year ago, the Eastern Washington Eagles set a school record with its top-notch free throw shooting. That squad nailed 73.3 percent of its charity tosses. That mark broke the school record which was set the year before (71.2).

The 2007-08 Eagles really turned on its free-throw shooting during Big Sky play, converting 75.4 percent of its attempts during that portion of the schedule.

Early in the 2008-09 campaign, the Eagles are hitting at a 71.4 percent clip.

Top-Notch Schedule for Eastern  
     
Eastern Washington will prepare for the Big Sky Conference portion of its schedule with 13 non-conference games from Nov. 14-Dec. 30.

Several of those games are versus some top-notch opponents, headlined by contests versus Gonzaga and Montana. Both teams have earned votes in the latest AP Top 25 poll.

Eastern plays host to its local rival from 15 miles to the northeast on Dec. 4, while defending Big Sky champion Montana visits Cheney on Jan. 31, and the Eagles travel to Missoula on March 5.

In addition to those two teams, Eastern Washington might play Georgia from the Southeastern Conference on Saturday (Nov. 29) and have three West Coast Conference schools on its schedule, as well as a pair of Western Athletic Conference teams and a Mountain West Conference opponent.

And the Honors Go To ...              
Eastern Washington as a team was once again honored over the summer, being named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll.

It marked the seventh consecutive season the Eagles had ranked 10th or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.

Eagles Picked Ninth  
                 
Eastern Washington was picked ninth in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches and media polls.

The two polls were nearly identical. Both picked Montana to win the title, and the Grizzlies were followed, in order, by Portland State, Montana State, Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona, Weber State/Idaho State (WSU was sixth in the coaches poll and seventh in the media poll, while ISU was seventh and sixth, respectively), Sacramento State and the Eagles.

“Our team is hungry this year,” head coach Wendy Schuller said. “We have a great group of players who really play hard for each other.

“We had a rough year last year and a rough off-season, and those memories have set with a lot of us. We also have new players who are determined not to let those types of things happen.”

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