Eagles Welcome Portland, Close Out Non-Conference Slate

Dec. 29, 2006

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team (4-8) returns to action on Sunday, taking on Portland in a New Year's Eve contest. The contest begins at 1:05 p.m. and will be played at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The game will be both teams' final ones before commencing conference play. Eastern Washington travels east to take on Montana State and Montana the following Thursday and Saturday.

Portland is coming off a 79-57 win over Utah Valley State on Thursday (Dec. 28) and will enter Sunday's game with an 8-6 mark, its best start since the 2001-01 squad begins its campaign with an 8-3 record.

"They are much improved over last year," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "(Portland head coach) Jim (Sollars) is a veteran coach. He's done it for a long time and knows what he's doing, so we know we will have a battle on our hands, but we would realy like to go into Big Sky play on a winning note and feeling good about ourselves. We'll come out and play hard as usual; hopefully we'll play a little smarter, as well."

The Eagles will, however, not be primarily focused on Portland come Sunday.

"Right now, we are most concerned with ourselves and getting ourselves on track," Schuller said. "We see moments of greatness and then moments of not-so greatness. We just have to become more of a consistent team and be able to take care of the ball.

"I still believe we have the ability to be a really good basketball team, and we are going to work hard to get ourselves to that point."

In all-time meetings between the Eagles and Portland, Eastern Washington is 11-6, while the Eagles hold an 8-1 advantage in games played in Cheney. The Eagles won last year's match-up in Portland, 63-57, and also the year before, 52-38, in Cheney. The last Pilot victory came, 63-62, on Jan. 5, 2003, at the Chiles Center.

Portland is led statistically by Laiken Dollente (16.9 ppg, 2.0 spg, 3.1 apg, 88.7% FT and 42.9% 3-pt.) and Rachel Warren (54.1% shooting, 7.9 rpg and 2.5 bpg).

The Pilots have played four Big Sky Conference opponents this season, defeating Montana State (63-62) and Portland State (75-70), while falling to Montana (74-54) and Sacramento State (63-55).

Let's Party Like Its 19 ... I Mean 2006!

This Sunday, Eastern Washington is going to play in just its fourth New Year's Eve contest in school history. The previous meetings came in 2003 (a 72-69 win over Gonzaga at Spokane Arena), 2000 (an 81-58 home victory over Colgate) and 1993 (a 64-42 loss at Washington).

Time Off for Christmas

Christmas break was very-much looked forward to by the Eagles coaching staff and players, who had been working hard since the beginning of the fall quarter.

"I think Christmas break, which always comes at the right time for basketball, is a great break because we have been going hard since school started," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "It is nice to rest the players a little bit, not just physically but mentally, to get away from each other and then get ready to get back into the grind.

"We are getting ourselves back into basketball shape (after the break), but there is a little more pep in everybody's step. They are glad to be back."

Northwestern State Goes Down

The Eagles ended a six-game losing streak on Dec. 15, earning a 71-67 victory over Northwestern State. Phynique Allen got EWU's scoring going by tallying the first 11 Eagle points of the night. She would finish with 16 tallies, the second-highest point total of her career.

Brittney Osborn led the Eagles in scoring by tallying 17 points, marking the first time this season she has led the team in scoring.

"Brit did a great job coming off the bench and bringing in a great deal of energy," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "It's like having another starter on your bench. She has bought into the role of being the best sixth man in our league. You need to have those kinds of players on your team and to have that positive attitude to embrace the role."

Sydney Benson also had an impressive night, recording her second double-double of the season, contributing 14 points and leading all players with 13 rebounds.

Eastern would lead by as many as 12 before Northwestern State rallied late to tie the game at 61 with 3:34 left. At that point, Eastern Washington showed its resolve, scoring the next six points to pull away and put the game out of reach.

"I'm glad we got that monkey off of our back," Schuller said. "Northwestern State is a good athletic team and they play very hard, so it was a good win for us."

Eastern Washington Welcomed Southern Teams

Northwestern State (located in Natchitoches, La.) and Davidson (located in Davidson, N.C.) became the first two schools from the South to ever visit Cheney to play the Eagles, taking on Eastern in a four-day span in mid-December.

The closest school geographically to the South to ever play on the Eastern Washington campus was Texas-Pan American, who fell to Eastern, 59-45, on Dec. 6, 2002.

Eastern defeated Northwestern State on Dec. 15 by a 71-67 score to snap a six-game losing streak before falling to Davidson, 67-58, three days later.

Spokane-Area Rivalry: 103-102!

Eastern Washington and Gonzaga played a run-and-gun contest on Dec. 9, before the visiting Bulldogs pulled out a razor-thin 103-102 overtime victory over the Eagles.

Neither team had previously played in a game where both squads scored 100 or more points.

The last time that Eastern Washington reached 100 points in any game came 19 years ago, in a 105-79 win at Portland State on Dec. 11, 1987.

In the 35 contests played between the teams, never before had even one team scored 100 or more points. The overtime contest was the first in the all-time series, as well.

Free Throws Are Falling From the Sky

The Eagles broke their school record for free throws made in their dramatic 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 9, shooting 36-of-46 from the charity stripe.

The previous record of 35 made was set on Feb. 5, 2004, in an 80-75 Eagle win over Montana State. The school record of 48 attempts was also set in that contest.

The 36 made versus GU is also the fourth-highest total in Big Sky Conference history.

UW Visits For First Time in 16 Years

The Washington Huskies paid its initial visit to Cheney in 16 years on Nov. 21 and narrowly left town with a win.

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

What a Start!

The Eagles started the season with a 3-0 record for the first time in 22 years by 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 and won, 96-57.

Eagles Third in Big Sky Attendance

Eastern Washington has seen a high number of people attend games so far this season, as evidenced by its average attendance of 782, which places the Eagles third among Big Sky Conference teams.

The two Montana schools pace the league, as Montana has drawn 3,015 per contest and Montana State is averaging 1,255. Following the Eagles, three schools average from 500-700 per game and the remaining trio average 300-400 per contest.

Roster Breakdown - Hometowns

Eastern Washington's 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), Leah Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each is from California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.

Success in the Big Sky

The past two seasons, the Eagles have compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference seasons 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 the BSC sponsored women's sports.

Big Sky Conference Poll

The Eagles were selected fifth (tied with Portland State) in the Big Sky Conference'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.

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 fourth consecutive season the Eagles had ranked third or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.

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 are Alyssa Chambers and Brandon Hansen. 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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