Christmas Week? Rivalry Week!

Dec. 27, 2007

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The rivalry between the Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University women's basketball teams kicks up again at 5 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 29) at the Kennel in Spokane in a game that will be telecast live by KAYU-28. The teams have played some incredible contests over the past several years, as seven of the last eight meetings have been decided by seven points or less. Last year's match-up saw Eastern hit a triple-digit point total for the first time in 19 years and Gonzaga do so for the initial time in 13 seasons, as the teams battled in a 103-102 overtime thriller won by GU, the highest-scoring game in school history for both institutions.

The rivals have played at least once every season since the 1984-85 campaign. The Bulldogs may have won five of the last six meetings, but the Eagles have kept nearly every game close while Gonzaga has won three straight West Coast Conference regular-season titles and earned top-two league finishes in each the past five years. In that time frame all but one of the games in this rivalry was decided by more than seven points.

The Eagles are in the process of turning their ship around, playing better last week in 95-86 and 82-74 respective road setbacks to San Francisco and Pacific. Overall, the Eagles are 3-9, but ready for a fresh start with their rivalry game with Gonzaga and the start of Big Sky Conference play next week.

Gonzaga, meanwhile, is 7-5 and has played against some top-notch competition, recently snapping a two-game losing streak (to then-No. 1 Tennessee and Purdue) with an 82-68 win over Montana State.

"Gonzaga is a very good team, and they have had a few particularly good years in the WCC and are very good in the Kennel, but we just have to first and foremost worry about ourselves," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "That has to be our primary focus, doing the things that we need to do well."

 

Last Year in the Rivalry Game

If the Eagles and Bulldogs are able to top what happened in last year's meeting between the teams, buckle in because we're going to have quite a ride on Saturday.

On Dec. 9, 2006, in a game played on the EWU campus, Gonzaga outlasted the Eagles in a 103-102 overtime thriller. Incredibly, neither team had scored in triple digits in at least 13 seasons and each was able to do so in the same game.

The Eagles had last reached the 100-point mark in a 105-79 win over Portland State on Dec. 11, 1987, while Gonzaga had previously reached that platform in a 105-69 defeat of Northeast Louisiana (currently named Louisiana-Monroe) on March 26, 1994. Neither team has scored 100 or more points in a game since that incredible contest.

Not only was the game the highest-scoring contest in school history for each university, but the 87-87 score at the end of regulation would have fit in the top five all-time scoring games in Eastern history.

 

Looking Back at Last Week for EWU

The Eagles started off last week's two game road trip by compiling their highest point total in 31 games, but falling short of San Francisco 95-86. The 86 points scored were the most by an Eastern team since a 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 9, 2006. Eastern did rally late in the USF contest, however, using a 6-0 run to pull within five points at 84-79 with 2:25 left.

In EWU's game with Pacific, the Eagles shot a sizzling 61 percent in the second half and rallied from a 70-53 deficit with 4:34 left by utilizing a 14-2 run to trail by just 72-67 with 1:52 remaining.

The 60.6 percent shooting average in the second half (20-of-33) is Eastern's best shooting half since making 62.5 percent of its shots (15-of-24) in the second half of a 77-50 win over Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006.

Tatjana Sparavalo was on fire in the second half of that contest, nailing 9-of-11 shots in that stanza. She scored all 23 of her points in that stanza, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It's also the most points scored by an Eagle so far in the 2007-08 season.

 

Getting Hot Around Final Exams

The Eagles returned to the court after completing finals with a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. That marked 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) and scored a then-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 of that contest. 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 at the time (she also had 20 against Nevada on Nov. 15 but set a new mark with 22 against UGF).

 

Kyla's Blog - Everyone's Reading It!

Freshman guard Kyla Evans has taken a Christmas break from her blog to spend time with her family, but "Kyla's Blog" will be making a return early next week on the women's basketball page at WWW.GOEAGS.COM. She has been writing her blog on a weekly basis, detailing her life adjusting to her first year in college and as an NCAA Division I basketball player.

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 and 33rd in three-point shooting percentage in the latest NCAA rankings which includes games played through Dec. 16. She ranks first (3.17) and seventh (41.8) among Big Sky Conference players in those respective categories.

Also, Evans is in 10th place in the league and tops on the team in scoring average (13.0).

In her last five games, she has averaged 15.8 points per game and has nailed 43.2 percent of her three-point shots (19-of-44).

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 Dec. 15.

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

 

Sensational Serbian

Freshman Tatjana Sparavalo has had some notable performances the last couple weeks.

She showed a glimpse of what was to come at the end of the first half of Eastern Washington's 65-53 win over Idaho on Dec. 5. 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 Eastern's 82-74 loss to Pacific on Dec. 21, she was on fire in the second half, nailing 9-of-11 shots in that stanza. She scored all 23 of her points scored in that game in that stanza, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It is also the most points scored by an Eagle so far in the 2007-08 season.

 

Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 4.55 per contest, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 37th among NCAA Division I players.

Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.61, 50-to-31) 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.

 

All-Around Baker

Katy Baker has been an outstanding all-around player for the Eagles, as she ranks on the Big Sky Conference's statistical charts in five different categories.

She is seventh in the league in steals per game and leads the team in that category with 1.58, is tied for seventh in assists per game (3.0), eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.80, 36-to-45), 11th in free throw shooting percentage (77.1) and tied for 13th in the league in scoring average (12.2).

 

Scott in the Big Sky Rankings, vs. USF

Nicole Scott is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is tied for third in blocks per game (1.0), is 10th in rebounds per game (6.3), 12th in field goal percentage (42.5) and 18th in points per game (10.3).

She scored 20 points in EWU's 95-86 loss to San Francisco on Dec. 18, tied for the third-highest point total earned by an Eagle this year and just three off of her career high. She made 7-of-12 baskets in that game, including 3-of-6 from three-point territory. Scott also pulled down six rebounds in the contest.

 

Benson Ties Records, Ranks in BSC

Sydney Benson tied a school record with seven steals in a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. She now shares that mark with five different players (that total was last recorded by Joanna Chadd versus Denver on Jan. 8, 2004). She also had a double-double in that contest, scoring 11 points and pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds.

She is ranked in three different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is sixth in rebounds per game (7.2), seventh in blocks per game (0.8) and 22nd in points per game (8.6).

 

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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