Dec. 1, 2008
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will wrap up a busy stretch of six games in 12 days (in four different states) this week with a pair of home contests and a single-game road trip.
First up will be Montana Tech on Tuesday (Dec. 2), while Gonzaga visits Cheney on Thursday (Dec. 4). Both of those games tip off at 7:05 p.m. On Saturday (Dec. 6), the Eagles will play at Utah State at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.
The team is coming off of an impressive trip to Las Vegas, Nev., and the Lady Rebel Round-Up. The Eagles defeated host UNLV in overtime, 70-69, before battling Southeastern Conference-member Georgia in a 75-51 defeat in the title contest. The performance against UNLV was an impressive rebound from a disappointing 80-70 defeat to Idaho earlier in the week.
Eastern's first opponent of this upcoming week, Montana Tech, is 3-4 after seeing a two-game winning streak snapped in an 87-76 loss to Montana-Western on Saturday (Nov. 29).
Gonzaga is coming off an impressive weekend that saw it gain some national press after defeating then-No. 16 Virginia at the WBCA Classic 69-62 to claim the tournament title. The Bulldogs are 7-1 with wins over Atlantic Coast and Pacific-10 Conference opposition (Virginia and Washington, respectively).
The last time the teams met in Cheney, on Dec. 9, 2006, the rivals battled to an exciting 103-102 overtime decision with Gonzaga coming out on top. Neither team has hit the 100-point mark since then.
Gonzaga is the only team on Eastern's schedule which is receiving votes in this week's AP top-25 poll.
Utah State is 3-3 and went 1-1 at the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic over the weekend, defeating Texas State 50-47 before falling to Monmouth in the title game 48-44. The Aggies defeated Northern Arizona 64-56 in overtime in their only meeting with a Big Sky Conference team so far this season.
"This is going to be a really good week for us to show our toughness, be resilient and keep fighting," head coach Wendy Schuller said.
Halftime Deficit? No Problem
Eastern Washington earned its first win of the 2008-09 season on Nov. 21 by an 80-70 score over San Francisco.
In earning the win, the Eagles rallied from a 38-33 deficit at the half, marking their first win after trailing at the break since Feb. 24, 2007. In that earlier contest, EWU trailed Sacramento State 29-27 at the break before prevailing by a 66-63 score.
Win on the Road? No Problem
Eastern Washington earned an impressive 70-69 overtime victory over UNLV on Nov. 28 in the semifinals of the Lady Rebel Round-Up.
The win snapped a 14-game losing streak for Eastern in road contests (16 in games played away from home, including two neutral-site contests last year).
The last win away from home came on Feb. 24, 2007, when the team claimed a 66-63 road victory over Sacramento State.
The victory was Eastern's first-ever over UNLV in four tries and was its initial one over a team in the Mountain West Conference since a 53-30 victory against Wyoming on Jan. 10, 2004.
"This was a really good win for our team and for our program, a good confidence builder," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "From this point, we want to keep moving onward and upward."
Nailing Shots All Over the Court
Powered by an outstanding shooting performance against San Francisco on Nov. 21, the Eagles are currently second in the Big Sky Conference in shooting percentage at 40.0 percent.
In that USF contest, an 80-70 win, the Eagles made 55.6 percent of their shots (30-of-54). That average is the best by an Eastern squad since the team made 57.8 percent of its attempts (26-of-45) in an 81-56 win over Portland State on Feb. 12, 2005.
"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."
The Eagles had an amazing shooting half against Georgia on Saturday (Nov. 29), making 60.0 percent from the floor (12-of-20), a nice rebound from 30.4 percent shooting in the opening stanza (7-of-23).
The last time Eastern Washington shot that high in a half came on Dec. 21, 2007, when the Eagles made 60.6 percent of their shots (20.33) in a road game versus Pacific.
Kyla Nails Shots From Everywhere
Sophomore guard Kyla Evans has shot lights out so far in 2008-09, as she is third among Big Sky Conference players in shooting percentage at 55.0 and seventh in three-point shooting at 45.8.
Evans also ranks 50th nationally in three-point shooting (she does not have enough made baskets to be included on the other list).
In the league statistical rankings, the sophomore also ranks fourth in three-point makes per game (2.20) and is 14th in points per game (11.6). She is tied for 12th in minutes per game (32.00).
Evans shot extremely well in Eastern's 80-70 defeat of San Francisco on Nov. 21, 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 most by any Eagle so far in 2008-09.
Against Southeastern Conference-member Georgia on Saturday (Nov. 29), she also shot really well, making 6-of-8 attempts, 4-of-5 from three-point range.
"Kyla 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."
Jess Enters Assist List
Early into her junior season at Eastern Washington, point guard Jessica Huntington has entered the all-time career assists top-10 list for the Eagles. She currently has 228 and is 12 from ninth and 36 behind eighth.
A complete list of the current rankings may be found on page 5 of this PDF.
Huntington's 2008-09 average of 4.00 assists per game places her in a fifth-place tie in the Big Sky Conference. She is also tied for third in assist-to-turnover ratio, 1.67 (20-to-12). That average also places her 92nd among NCAA Division I players.
Scott Intimidates Shot Takers
Junior Nicole Scott ended the 2007-08 season on a hot blocking streak, recording five blocks apiece in three of her final five games of that campaign.
She has now started off 2008-09 where she left off and has nine blocks so far this season, 1.80 per game. That average not only leads all Big Sky Conference players, but ranks her 75th in the NCAA Division I ranks.
Amazing Amy Helps Lead Eagles
Forward Amy Bratvold has been shooting at a high clip this season, both from the free throw line and from the floor.
She has nailed 88.9 percent of her charity tosses (16-of-18), the sixth-highest average in the Big Sky Conference and 52nd-best among NCAA Division I players.
Bratvold has also made 43.2 percent of her shots from the floor, the 14th-best average in the league. She is 25th in scoring with 9.6 points per game.
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.
Five games into the 2008-09 campaign, the Eagles are hitting at a 68.6 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 at home versus some top-notch opponents, headlined by a contest with Gonzaga. Eastern plays host to its local rival from 15 miles to the northeast on Thursday (Dec. 4).
Additionally, Eastern Washington played Georgia from the Southeastern Conference on Saturday (Nov. 29), a 75-51 loss, 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."