Gold Rush Time

Dec. 17, 2007

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Twenty-eight years ago, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team went on its first-ever trip to the state of California and played Pacific and San Francisco on that excursion. This week Eastern will once again make a trip to the Golden State to play UOP and USF.

Eastern will first take on West Coast Conference member San Francisco at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 18) prior to facing Pacific of the Big West Conference at 7 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 21). The Dons are 7-4 on the season, while Pacific is 3-7. Free live video for the USF contest can be accessed here.

"It will be a good test for us," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We have not played a lot of road games this year, and this trip will help prepare us for (Big Sky) Conference play, to go on the road for two games, traveling between sites.

"A lot of what will determine the outcomes for us this week is what we do. We have to take care of what we control, to execute, and if we do those things it will not matter what the other team does; we will have a chance to win."

On Dec. 11, 1979, the Eagles won their first-ever game in the Golden State over Pacific 61-58 on Dec. 11 of that season. The next day, Eastern fell to San Jose State 63-53 before dropping a 77-55 decision to USF on Dec. 14 and heading home.

The games this week start a stretch of five straight away contests for Eastern, although the middle contest of that stretch will be just 20 miles away at Gonzaga on Dec. 29. The Eagles will then start Big Sky Conference play on the road versus Northern Arizona and Sacramento State on Jan. 3 and 5, respectively, before heading home for its league home opener on Jan. 10 versus Idaho State.

The Eagles have won 2-of-3 contests, most recently topping Great Falls 73-57 in a game that saw two records attained. Sydney Benson topped off a double-double performance (11 points, 10 rebounds) with a record-tying seven steals. Kyla Evans set a school mark in three-point attempts, as she made 6-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-21 from the field) to score an EWU season-high 22 points.

Eastern Washington's two opponents will enter their respective contests with the Eagles on two very different streaks - San Francisco has won four straight contests, getting that hot streak going with a 64-62 road win over Pacific-10 Conference member Oregon State, while Pacific has dropped six consecutive contests.

Historically, the Eagles have rarely played the Dons or the Tigers. That December 1979 meeting marked the only time USF and EWU have met prior to this week, while Pacific also played EWU on Nov. 24, 1984, a 73-60 Eagle win, meaning that Eastern Washington will bring a 2-0 lead in the all-time series into this week's game in Stockton, Calif.


Looking Back at the Last Two Weeks

The Eagles returned to the court after completing finals with a 73-57 win over visiting Great Falls on Saturday (Dec. 15). That would mark Eastern's second win in three games.

In the UGF game, two Eagles had school-record performances. Sydney Benson topped off a double-double performance (11 points, 10 rebounds) with a record-tying seven steals. Kyla Evans set a school mark in three-point attempts as she made 6-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-21 from the field) to score an EWU season-high 22 points.

The Eagles were helped by 23 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points in the game. Eastern also rallied from a 28-21 rebound deficit at the half to out-rebound UGF 24-12 in the second stanza.

The week before, the Eagles defeated Idaho 65-53 and lost to Portland 85-58.

Against the Vandals, Eastern's defense led the way. The Eagles not only held Idaho scoreless for a 5:39 span in a 17-0 run but actually did not allow a Vandal field goal to tickle the twine for a 14:15 span. By the time that stretch was over, EWU held a commanding 57-40 lead and cruised to the win from there.

Tatjana Sparavalo helped jump start the Eagles at the end of the first half. She contributed an old-fashioned three-point play with 14 seconds left and then had a spectacular pass to Julie Piper for a lay-up at the first-half horn to give EWU a 40-34 halftime edge.

In the game with Portland, a team which at 7-3 was off to one of its best starts in school history, the Eagles were burned by their 28 turnovers. Every other aspect of the game was relatively similar between the teams, as each team shot 44 percent from the floor and UP held just a 40-35 advantage in rebounds.

Evans scored 20 points in the contest, which had tied for an Eagle season high (she also had 20 against Nevada on Nov. 15 but set a new mark with 22 against UGF).


Get That Shot Out of Here

The Eastern Washington Eagles have shown its high aptitude for blocking shots this season, as their average of 4.60 per game leads the conference and ranks the team 49th nationally. The Eagles had a Big Sky Conference-leading 10 blocks against Nevada on Nov. 15.

Leading the way for Eastern in that category are Nicole Scott (third in the BSC, 1.20 per game), Sydney Benson (tied for fourth, 1.00), Kyla Evans (tied for 11th, 0.60) and Paige McGowan (tied for 15th, 0.56).


Kyla's Blog - Everyone's Reading It!

Freshman guard Kyla Evans has been writing a weekly blog on her life adjusting to her first year in college and as an NCAA Division I basketball player. New blogs are posted by Tuesday each week and may be accessed on the women's basketball page at WWW.GOEAGS.COM.

On the court, Evans has shot lights out from three-point range, as she ranks seventh among all NCAA Division I players in three-point makes per game (3.10) and 33rd in three-point shooting percentage (43.7). She ranks first and seventh among Big Sky Conference players in those respective categories.

Also, Evans is in 11th place in the league and tops on the team in scoring average (12.9) and is tied for 11th in blocks per game (0.60).

In her last three games, she has averaged 17.3 points per game and has nailed 50.0 percent of her three-point shots (12-of-24).

Against Portland on Dec. 8, she had her second 20-point scoring performance of the year (she also had that many points against Nevada on Nov. 15). Those point totals had tied for Eagle season highs before Evans had 22 in Eastern's game with Great Falls on Saturday (Dec. 15).

She also had an incredible start to her collegiate career, as the freshman nailed eight of her first 10 three-point shots.


Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 4.60 per contest, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 37th among NCAA Division I players.

Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.64, 46-to-28) is the fourth-highest in the league and 89th-best nationally.

In Eastern Washington's 66-62 loss to Akron on Nov. 22, she contributed nine assists to the Eagle cause. She also had nine against UC Irvine on Nov. 30.

Those totals are the most posted by an Eastern player since Leah Gonnella had nine versus Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006. Nobody has had more than nine since Michelle Demetruk tallied 11 against Portland State on Jan. 25, 2003.

"I saw some great improvement from Jessica in terms of handling some pressure full court and not worrying about it," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I thought she was real offensive minded."


Give Me That Ball Back

Katy Baker is not only succeeding in many facets of the sport, but she is leading the team with 1.70 steals per game. That ranks her sixth among Big Sky Conference players.

The junior is also 15th in the league in scoring average (11.9) and 13th in free throw shooting percentage (75.0).


What Shooting Performances

The Eagles had a pair of outstanding shooting performances in their first two games of the 2007-08 season.

Against Montana Tech in the season-opening contest on Nov. 11, the Eagles shot 50.0 percent from beyond the three-point arc (10-of-20) and 91.7 percent from the free throw line (11-of-12).

Eastern Washington then shot 50.0 percent on three-point shots (4-of-8) against Nevada on Nov. 15. That percentage on three-point shots had been surpassed just two times in the past three seasons.


Quartet Signs with Eagles

Four players have signed letters of intent on Nov. 14 to attend Eastern Washington University and play for the women's basketball squad, head coach Wendy Schuller announced. The signees will begin their Eastern careers in 2008-09 after inking their names on the first day of the NCAA early signing period.

The new players include Pauline Ferrall, a 6-2 post from Carmel (Calif.) High School, Breauna Russell, a 5-6 guard from Washington H.S. in Phoenix, Ariz., Brianne Ryan, a 6-0 guard from Lynden Christian High School in Lynden, Wash., and Meaghan White, a 6-2 forward from Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore.

"Just looking at the credentials of this class is very exciting," Schuller said. "We have added young ladies who are outstanding individuals, exceptional basketball players and winners. I am very pleased with the recruiting efforts of (associate head coach and recruiting coordinator) Tom Webb and our entire staff and team.

"We have assembled a class that will fit in well with our team and has the ability to help take us to the next level. I love the enthusiasm of this group and know they are great additions to our Eastern Washington women's basketball family."


And the Honors Go To ...

Eastern Washington as a team was honored over the summer, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the sixth consecutive season the Eagles had ranked 10th or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.


Eagles Picked Seventh

Eastern Washington was picked seventh in both the preseason coaches poll and in the preseason media poll. The polls were nearly identical from the top down:

• 1) Montana
• 2) Idaho State
• 3) Montana State
• 4) Weber State (coaches), Northern Arizona (media)
• 5) Northern Arizona (coaches), Weber State (media)
• 6) Portland State
• 7) Eastern Washington
• 8) Sacramento State
• 9) Northern Colorado


54s are Wild

With Nov. 7's exhibition game between Eastern Washington and Central Washington wrapping down, the score was tied 54-54 with 54 seconds left. Then Eastern's #54 player Nicole Scott nailed the first-three point shot she had ever made in an Eagle uniform to give the Eagles a 57-54 lead with 35 seconds left that they would not relinquish.

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