December 4, 2006

Eagles Return Home, Play Gonzaga

Dec. 4, 2006

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team returns to Reese Court for the first time in 18 days, playing host to local rival Gonzaga at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 9).

After winning its first three games to record its best start in 22 years, Eastern Washington (3-5) has lost five consecutive contests and is looking to break out of its skid with a win over the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga is 6-4 and plays host to Arizona State on Wednesday (Dec. 6). The Bulldogs have had an up-and-down season so far, although the downs have come against good competition.

Defeated teams for Gonzaga include Utah and UCLA (the first win over a ranked opponent in Gonzaga's history, as the Bruins were ranked 21st at the time), while the Bulldogs' four losses have come to Montana, North Carolina, Hawaii and Purdue. All but the UNC game took place on the road, as that one was played in Honolulu.

Historically, the teams have played at least once in each of the past 21 years. The teams played twice in eight of those seasons, while the squads played three times in 1990-91. The rivals have played once a year for the past six seasons.

Gonzaga has taken the past two meetings, winning last year in Spokane by a 54-51 score and in Cheney the year before, 72-51. The last Eagle win occurred in 2003-04 by a 72-69 score in a contest played in the Spokane Arena. Gonzaga leads the all-time series, 20-14. In games played in Cheney, the Bulldogs lead, 9-7.

Current statistical leaders for Gonzaga include Michelle Elliott (13.2 points per game, 38.5 percent three-point shooting and 45.9 percent field-goal shooting), Stephanie Hawk (5.1 rebounds per game, 1.6 steals per game, 2.6 blocks per game - exactly 2/3 of the team's blocks and 75.0 percent free throw shooting) and Rachel Kane (3.1 assists per game).

The Eagles started the season 3-0 for the first time in 22 years sandwiching a pair of home victories over Montana Tech and Corban College with an impressive 20-point road win over UC Irvine.

Versus the Montana Tech Orediggers, Eastern used 12-2, 14-2 and 7-0 runs to claim the 75-69 victory. The final spurt came with the score tied at 67 just two minutes from the final buzzer. A 22-5 run early in the second half versus UC Irvine allowed the Eagles to pull away from the Anteaters in their 80-60 victory. Versus Corban College, Eastern Washington used a commanding 30-9 run to put separation between the two teams.

The Washington Huskies then paid its first visit to Cheney in 16 years and narrowly left town with a . The Huskies took control the majority of the game, taking as high as a 15-point lead, but the Eagles would shortly respond with a 17-4 run to tie the contest at 42-all with 11:29 remaining. The teams remained close down to the wire before Washington claimed its 67-59 win. The Eagles trailed by just two with 5:08 left and four with 1:49 remaining.

The next two contests for Eastern Washington took place at the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic. In the tournament played in San Antonio, Texas, the Eagles dropped its opening contest to the hosts, UTSA, by a 77-67 score. The next day, EWU fell to No. 9 LSU, a team which has played in the last three Final Fours, by a 105-52 score.

On the stat sheet, the Eagles are being led so far this season by Joanna Chadd (15.3 points per game, 1.4 steals per game, 85.7 percent free throw shooting, 39.3 percent three-point shooting and 45.1 percent field-goal shooting percentage - ninth in the Big Sky), Katy Baker (7.4 rebounds per game - fourth in the Big Sky), Brittney Osborn (1.4 steals per game), Sydney Benson (1.6 blocks per game) and Phynique Allen (2.9 assists per game).

Other scoring leaders for Eastern include Osborn (9.3 points per game), Baker (8.6), Allen (8.4) and Ashley Knight (8.1). Following Baker in the rebounds per game statistical rankings is Benson (6.8). Chadd and Baker have also recorded a high number of steals, currently placing themselves in a tie for second on the team with 1.4 per game (1.38 to be exact, trailing Osborn's 1.43 steals per game).

The assists have been spread around the team, as four players have accumulated at least 17 so far this season (2.1 per game). Jessica Huntington has 20 (2.5 per game), while Chadd and Baker are tied for third.

Notes

Joanna Chadd has led the Eagles in scoring in five games thus far this season. The season high for an Eagle is 24, scored by Chadd in EWU's 96-57 win over Corban College.

Katy Baker has set the rebounding pace for Eastern in four different contests, while Sydney Benson has done so three other games. The season high for rebounds in a contest is 11, held by both players (Baker versus UC Irvine, Benson against Corban College).

The Eagles have been spreading the ball around, as evidenced by the fact that six different players have led the team in assists in a game so far in 2006-07. Phynique Allen is leading the way with four times (twice tied with teammates). Jessica Huntington and Joanna Chadd have done so on three occurrences (once by themselves and twice shared with teammates). Half of Eastern's games have seen more than one player lead the team in assists. The season high of six was attained by Allen and Huntington, with both performances coming versus Corban College.

The steals leader the most times in 2006-07 has been Katy Baker, as she has set the team pace in three contests so far this year (once on a solo basis and twice tied with others). The season high of four has been attained by both Baker (against Washington) and Joanna Chadd (versus Corban College).

The season high for blocked shots in a contest was attained by Nicole Scott in the first game of the season, as she swatted away four Montana Tech shot attempts that day. That total still ties for the second-most recorded by a Big Sky player in 2006-07. Sydney Benson has been a steadying force in this statistical category, as she has led the team in blocks in five games since then (Scott and Tara Holgate have the block-leading honors the other two games).

Tara Holgate has the best shooting night of the season so far (for players with at least five field goals made in that game), as she shot 71.4 percent from the floor (5-of-7) in Eastern's 80-60 win over UC Irvine.

With a minimum of two made, Jessica Huntington has had the best three-point shooting performance of 2006-07, as she hit both of her attempts in EWU's 77-67 loss to UTSA. Joanna Chadd hit 66.7 percent of her three-point shots (6-of-9) in Eastern's 96-57 win over Corban College.

The best free-throw shooting performance of 2006-07 has come courtesy of Brittney Osborn, as she nailed all seven of her shots from the charity stripe in Eastern's season-opening victory over Montana Tech.

Give me another shot! The Eagles pace the Big Sky Conference in offensive rebounds per game with 14.75. On the other side of the court, Eastern is second in defensive rebounds per contest (26.50). Overall, the Eagles are leading the conference in rebounds per game with 41.2 per contest.

Bring all your friends! The Eastern Washington Eagles are currently third in the conference in average home attendance, averaging 782 per game. A season-high crowd of 1,198 witnessed the Eastern Washington-Washington contest.

The past two seasons, the Eagles have compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference campaigns for the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns. In 2004-05, the Eagles went 8-6 in Big Sky play, 16-12 overall. The following season, EWU's record was 7-7 in conference action, 13-15 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 playing in just 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 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.

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.

Schuller on EWU's Growing Pains and Potential

"Going into the year, we knew we were going to be young and inexperienced and that we would go through some growing pains the early part of the season. I do see sparks of greatness. We have periods of time when we play really well. I would love to see that for 40 minutes. I know we are capable of it."

Schuller on the Gonzaga Bulldogs

"It's a big game just in the fact that we have got to get ourselves feeling good again. We understand that we have got to play 40 minutes of good basketball. Gonzaga is a great team, and (GU head coach) Kelly Graves does a great job with them. We will have our hands full. It's a local rivalry game, so we are definitely looking forward to playing it. More than anything, however, we are concerned with ourselves and getting back on the right track."

Audio/Video Coverage

All of the 2006-07 women's basketball home games will be audio broadcast free of charge, along with road contests against Idaho, Washington State and Portland State. Announcing the contests is Alyssa Chambers. For more information, access www.teamline.cc.

All games played either at Reese Court or on the road in Big Sky Conference play will be available to view on the Internet at www.bigskytv.org. The cost is $59.95 for a 2006-07 season pass for EWU games (which also includes men's basketball contests and archived football and volleyball games) and $99.95 for all Big Sky teams. Single games can be viewed for $6.95

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