December 16, 2008

Heading to California for Two Games

Dec. 16, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team heads on the road to play Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge before taking a short break for the holidays. The Eagles play the Mustangs at 2 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 20) and the Matadors at 5 p.m. two days later.

In last week’s games, Eastern (4-6) played well in a 63-58 win over Pacific on Saturday (Dec. 13) before getting too far behind in the first half of a 73-66 loss to Portland on Monday (Dec. 15).

“It was a really good win for us; Pacific is a solid basketball team,” head coach Wendy Schuller said of the first game. “We did a nice job, especially early in the game, getting after loose balls and making plays.

“(Against Portland), I was disappointed in our first half effort. We did not come out and play with the intensity we need to. I am glad the players kept fighting and were resilient (in the second half), but we cannot put ourselves into a position like we did.”

Following the Pacific game, Nicole Scott was named Co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, the first Eagle to earn the honors since Jamie Chicane did so on Jan. 30, 2006.

Cal Poly is 5-4 and will play at Illinois-Chicago on Thursday (Dec. 18). The Mustangs and Eagles have played just twice, with Eastern winning at home on Dec. 19, 1999, by an 80-67 score and falling 73-61 in San Luis Obispo on Nov. 18, 2000.

Cal State Northridge is off to a 1-8 start and will play twice this weekend at the UNLV Holiday Tournament, taking on the hosts on Friday (Dec. 19) before playing either Oklahoma State or Southern Miss the next day. The Matadors lead the head-to-head history with EWU, 9-3. Eastern claimed the last meeting at home on Nov. 30, 2005, by a 69-61 score.

Scott Earns Co-Big Sky Player of the Week Honors                          
Junior Nicole Scott had a perfect performance on Saturday (Dec. 13) and rode that 6-of-6 showing (including 2-of-2 on threes) to Big Sky Conference Co-Player of the Week accolades. She became the first Eagle to win the honor since Jamie Chicane earned accolades on Jan. 30, 2006.

Scott’s perfect shooting, which included a couple of threes, came in a 63-58 home win over Pacific. It was also the best shooting percentage by an Eagle (with at least six attempts) since Felice Moore was 6-of-6 at Montana State on March 6, 2004. The Carson City, Nev., native contributed four rebounds and two steals in the win, as well.

The 6-2 forward also helped the team as a whole make 54.5 percent of its shots in that game (24-of-44), the second time this season the Eagles have made more than 50.0 percent from the floor.

Scott shared this week’s honors with Montana’s Mandy Morales.

She has started off 2008-09 on a high note and has 1.00 per game, an average that ranks her second among Big Sky Conference players.

She is also seventh in rebounds per game (7.1), 10th in shooting percentage (43.9) and 24th in points per game (9.4).

Being Aggressive on the Boards            
The Eastern Washington Eagles have shown themselves to be an aggressive team this year, partly evidenced by the team’s impressive rebounding numbers.

Overall, the Eagles rank third in the Big Sky Conference with 37.9 rebounds per game and have also done a good job not allowing their opponents to achieve their own rebounds to also place second in rebounding advantage (-0.8).

In fact, the team leads the league in offensive rebounds with 14.22 per game.

In 10 games so far in 2008-09, the team has grabbed at least 10 offensive boards seven times (including in four of the team’s last five games).

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, rallying from behind to do so.

In earning the victory, 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.

The Eagles then made it twice this season the team has rallied from behind at the half after the team responded to a 34-33 deficit to Montana Tech on Dec. 2 by outscoring the Orediggers 40-29 after the break in a 73-63 win.

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 as well as its initial one over a team in the Mountain West Conference since a 53-30 victory versus Wyoming on Jan. 10, 2004.

Nailing Shots All Over the Court  
              
The Eagles have had some impressive shooting performances this year.

On Nov. 21, an 80-70 win over San Francisco, 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.

Eastern Washington then made 54.5 percent (24-of-44) in a 63-58 win over Pacific on Saturday (Dec. 13). To compare, the Eagles had not reached the 50.0 percent mark at all last year.

“Our shot selection was really good (in both games),” 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 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 ranks among the top-50 NCAA Division I players in both three-point shooting percentage (32nd, 45.1) and three-point baskets made per game (50th, 2.6). She is fifth and third in the Big Sky Conference in those respective categories.

In fact, Evans is listed in five different Big Sky statistical categories. She is sixth in overall shooting percentage (48.0), 12th in minutes per game (32.11) and 13th in scoring (11.6 points per game).

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.

“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 against San Francisco because they were not letting her get any open looks. She did a really nice job knocking those shots down.”

Against Southeastern Conference-member Georgia on Nov. 29, she also shot at an impressive clip, making 6-of-8 attempts, 4-of-5 from three-point range.

Evans then made more than 50.0 percent of her three-point shots for the third time in 10 outings this season when she nailed 5-of-8 from beyond the arc versus Utah State on Dec. 6, 5-of-9 overall.

She already has 77 three-point makes in her career, the eighth-highest total in school history (and just two behind sixth), especially impressive considering Evans is just a sophomore and missed 11 games last year due to an injury.

Powerful Piper Shoots, Rebounds             
Julie Piper has had an impressive season for the Eagles so far in 2008-09, and the stats back it up, as she ranks among the top 13 players in the Big Sky Conference in three statistical categories.

Piper is eighth in rebounding with 6.6 per game, 11th in free throw percentage (77.1) and tied for 14th in scoring (11.4 points per game).

She has tallied at least eight points in 9-of-10 contests.

The sophomore has also led the team in rebounding in five games.

Excellence from the 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.

Eight games into the 2008-09 campaign, the Eagles are hitting at a 70.3 percent clip (123-of-175).

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 246 and is in ninth, just and 18 behind eighth.

Huntington’s 2008-09 average of 3.78 assists per game places her sixth in the Big Sky Conference. She is also fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio, 1.48 (38-to-25).

Top-Notch Schedule for Eastern               
Eastern Washington are in the midst of preparing for the Big Sky Conference portion of its schedule with 13 non-conference games, played from Nov. 14-Dec. 30.

Several of those games are at home versus some top-notch opponents, headlined by a contest with Gonzaga. Eastern played host to its local rival from 15 miles to the northeast on Dec. 4, falling to the Bulldogs in a hard-fought affair, 71-56.

Additionally, Eastern Washington took on Georgia from the Southeastern Conference on Nov. 29, a 75-51 loss, and has 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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