January 11, 2010

Road Awaits First-Place Eagles

Eastern looks to keep its undefeated Big Sky Conference record as the Eagles hit the road for games at Northern Arizona on Thursday and at Northern Colorado on Saturday


Upcoming Schedule

Date - Opponent - Time/Pacific
Jan. 14 - at Northern Arizona - 5:35 p.m.
Jan. 16 - at Northern Colorado - 6:05 p.m.

Eagle Webcasts . . .
All of Eastern Washington's women's basketball games at home, as well as all Big Sky Conference games, will be available to view, free of charge, at www.bigskytv.org.


By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information

A lot has changed in the last couple of weeks for the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team. The Eagles entered their first Big Sky Conference game on Dec. 31 at Sacramento State on a three-game losing streak, but got the wheels rolling with a 90-85 victory over the Hornets.

Eastern kept it going on Jan. 8 with a rare 67-64 victory over Montana and on Jan. 9 with a solid 69-63 victory over Montana State. Now, the Eagles are on a three-game winning streak and are tied for first in the Big Sky with Portland State. Eastern is now 9-6 overall.

Next up for the Eagles are road games at Northern Arizona on Thursday (Jan. 14) and Northern Colorado on Saturday (Jan. 16). The Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona have struggled this season with a 3-13 overall record, but may have received a momentum boost from a nail-biting 63-62 win over Weber State on Jan. 9. The Lumberjacks have played a tough schedule, as 12 of their 16 games have been played on the road.

Northern Arizona is led by freshman guard Amy Patton, who averages a team-high 17.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. Patton was named this week's Co-Big Sky Player of the Week after posting two 30 point performances with double-doubles against Idaho State and Weber State. She hit a buzzer-beater against Weber State that gave NAU their first Big Sky victory.

The Lumberjacks have struggled on offense so far this season, and are averaging just 57.1 points per game while allowing 66.6.

Northern Colorado has an 8-8 overall record and has dropped to 1-2 in the Big Sky after a 0-2 road trip with losses against Weber State on Jan. 8 and Idaho State on Jan. 9. The Bears have held opponents to 63.2 points per game on 39.4 percent shooting from the field.

The Bears feature two big-time scorers in Whitley Cox and Courtney Stoermer, who average 17.5 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. Lauren Oosdyke leads the team in rebounds with 7.1 per game while scoring 9.2 points per game. Stoermer has a team-leading 14 blocks and 30 steals on the season.

 

Tied for First: The Eagles are off to their best start in the Big Sky since the 2004-05 season when they won their first four Big Sky contests en route to a 16-12 season.

Eastern is 3-0 in the Big Sky and tied for first-place with Portland State, which is also 3-0 in conference play. The Vikings will also meet Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona this week.

 

Losing Streak Broken: Eastern's 67-64 overtime victory over Montana on Jan. 8 was the first against UM since the 2005-06 season, when the Eagles edged the Lady Griz 58-56 at Reese Court.  The win on Jan. 8 broke a seven-game losing streak to the Lady Griz, who are the reigning Big Sky Conference champions.

"We knew coming in that Montana played a tough zone defense," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "That gave us trouble especially early in the game and we were not attacking it the way we needed to be attacking. We made some adjustments and I thought our team did a nice job of making some key stops down the stretch."

Those key stops came in the way of turnovers by Montana down the stretch when Eastern held a one-point lead. Sarah Ena, who led Montana in scoring with 19 points, turned the ball over with 15 seconds remaining and Lauren Beck turned the ball over with five seconds remaining to put the game on ice for the Eagles.

 

Off on the Right Foot: The Eagles went into their Big Sky opener on Dec. 31 at Sacramento State amidst a three-game losing streak but were able to get back on track when it mattered most -- in conference play.

Eastern defeated the Hornets 90-85 and in the process four Eagles scored in double figures, including the second double-double in a row for guard Brianne Ryan. Point guard Jessica Huntington turned in one of her most impressive performances of the season, scoring nine points, dishing out 10 assists and pulling down seven rebounds.

"We were very pleased with the Sacramento State win," said Schuller. "Anytime you can win on the road in this league it is a good thing."

"Sacramento State is talented and plays a very different style -- I was pleased with our team's ability to adapt and to follow our game plan. It was a win that I think we can also attribute to some lessons we learned from our non-conference schedule."

 

Senior Leadership: Head Coach Wendy Schuller has been impressed with the progression and leadership of senior starting point guard Jessica Huntington. She is averaging 6.1 points a game along with a team-high 4.1 assists, and ranks fifth in the Big Sky with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. Her 62 assists rank seventh in the conference.

"Huntington has really become a scorer for us," said Schuller. "She'll get to the rim and shoot the three, and is just playing with a lot of confidence."

 

Second-Year Players Making Strides: Second-year players have been a bright spot early on for the Eagles, with true sophomore guards Brianne Ryan and Chene Cooper taking their game to another level.

"Cooper has really matured this season in terms of taking care of the ball and decision-making," said Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller. "She still does a great job of pushing the tempo for us and creating things as she did last season, but this year she is doing that a little more under control and making good choices."

Cooper is averaging 7.7 points a game off the bench, including back-to-back games in which she scored a team-high 17 in a win against Memphis and 14 against Gonzaga. She also averages 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

"Ryan has really rounded out nicely this season -- she is a good rebounder and is turning into our defensive stopper," said Schuller. "We know we can put her on the opponent's perimeter shooter, and with her speed, length and hard play, that she'll do a great job."

Ryan has started all 15 games this season and is averaging 8.3 points per game, along with 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

Links:
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/w-baskbl/index
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://bigskyconf.com/sport.asp?path=wbball&tab=womens
NCAA Basketball -- http://www.ncaa.com/sports/w-baskbl/ncaa-w-baskbl-body.html
ESPN College Scoreboard -- http://scores.espn.go.com/ncw/scoreboard
Coach Schuller's Website -- http://www.coachschuller.com/
Coach Schuller's Twitter -- http://twitter.com/EWUCoachSchu
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM

Recent EWU Women's Basketball Headlines . . .
January 9, 2010 - Eagles Victorious Over Bobcats 69-63
January 8, 2010 - Eagles Best Lady Griz in Overtime Triller 67-64
January 4, 2010 - Eagles Face Montana Schools at Reese Court
December 31, 2009 - Eagles Swat Hornets in 90-85 Shootout
December 29, 2009 - Eagles Open Big Sky Play at Sacramento State
December 21, 2009 - Eagles Lose Close Contest with Titans 58-55
December 19, 2009 - Anteaters Drop Eagles In Irvine
December 16, 2009 - Eagles Close Deficit But Fall to Mustangs
December 15, 2009 - Eagles Face Cal Poly at Reese Court Before Road Trip
December 12, 2009 - Eagles Bury Orediggers 87-60

 

EWU Basketball Highlights . . .

  • The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals three of the past eight years.
  • For the last eight years, Eastern has ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. In 2003-04, Eastern had the top grade point average in the country, 3.63. In 2008-09 EWU ranked ninth (3.42).
  • Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second team honors - Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
  • The past eight seasons, 67 players have earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, the most in the league.

 

Eagle Returning Letter Winners . . .

Julie Piper attained the most impressive recognition for the Eagles during her sophomore season in 2008-09, as she earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades. She also ranked highly in the league's statistical rankings, placing fifth in free throw shooting (78.3 percent), sixth in rebounds per game (6.8) and 18th in points per game (11.1). Her shooting from the charity stripe also placed her 130th among NCAA Division I players and was the eighth-best in Eastern history. She will enter her junior campaign second in EWU history for career free throw shooting percentage (76.0). She had the best scoring output by an Eagle in the 2008-09 season, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in Eastern's battle with Big Sky runner-up Portland State on Jan. 24. Piper also set the team pace in rebounds in 18 different contests.

Kyla Evans continued her attack on the Eastern record books as a sophomore. She made 60 three-point baskets, the fifth-highest single-season total ever recorded by an Eagle, and moved her career sum to 112, good for fifth place. In fact, the sophomore's current career three-point shooting percentage of 38.4 is on pace to set the school record. Evans placed 82nd nationally in three-point shooting percentage (36.1) and 100th in three-point baskets per game (2.07). She was third and eighth in those respective categories in the Big Sky ranks. She made 6-of-10 in a 90-75 win over Montana State on Jan. 29 to help the Eagles to within one of the school record of three-point makes in a game (EWU shot 13-of-27 from beyond the arc in that contest). Evans showed her prowess in the classroom, as well, earning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 8 first team accolades. She was also the EWU Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December.

Nicole Scott had an outstanding junior season, as well, and the best display of her skills came on Dec. 13 against Pacific that helped her earn Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors. In that contest, Scott nailed all six of her shots, including three treys, in the best shooting performance by an Eagle since Felice Moore also went 6-of-6 at Montana State on March 6, 2004. Additionally, Scott crafted an impressive streak of consecutive free throws made with 29 straight from Nov. 25-Feb. 7, just two shy of being one of the 22 longest such streaks in Division I history. She led the league in free throw shooting in Big Sky games by converting on 86.5 percent of her attempts (32-of-37). She was also an intimidating force inside, placing sixth in the conference in blocks per game (0.97).

Jessica Huntington was one of the steadiest point guards in the country in her junior season, as her assist-turnover ratio of 1.85 (94-to-50) was the tops in the Big Sky and 23rd best among Division I players. She also averaged 3.24 assists per game, placing seventh in that category among league players. She converted 40.7 of her three-point attempts (22-of-54), the sixth-best average in Eastern Washington history.

Tatjana Sparavalo also had some impressive performances during her sophomore season. She scored 15 in a challenging road game versus UNLV and shot at a high level against Portland on Dec. 15, making 5-of-9 attempts from the floor. In addition, Sparavalo had six of Eastern's points during a game-changing 18-3 run in a victory over Weber State on Jan. 10.

Brianne Ryan started 19 games as a freshman and saw her shooting percentages rise once league play commenced, markedly in the three-point category. She shot 27.3 percent from the arc in non-conference games (9-of-33) and 45.2 percent in league contests (14-of-31).

Chene Cooper also played well as a freshman in 2008-09. Her aggressive nature showed in her steals per game average of 1.62, seventh-best in the Big Sky. She also placed 12th in assists per contest with 2.41. In addition, she improved her shot-selection and shot-conversion skills throughout the season, making just 28.3 percent of her attempts through the first 22 games before converting on 41.3 percent over the last seven games. 

Breauna Russell played in 16 games as an Eastern freshman in 2008-09, finishing the year with 16 points and 11 steals.

 

About Head Coach Wendy Schuller . . .

Under head coach Wendy Schuller, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team has reached heights unseen in Cheney in decades, both on and off the basketball court.

Over the past eight campaigns, the team has been ranked amongst the top 10 squads on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll, something only achieved by one other team (Indiana State). The Eagle squad of 2003-04 placed first nationally with a 3.63 grade point average.

Schuller led Eastern to back-to-back .500-or-better regular-season Big Sky Conference records for the first time in school history (2004-05 and 2005-06) as well as tournament appearances in five of her eight seasons at EWU. To put that achievement into perspective, Eastern Washington played in just five BSC Tournaments in its first 13 years of Big Sky play.

Since the Big Sky began sponsoring women's sports in 1988-89, the Eagles have compiled two overall winning seasons and five trips to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals. Both of those winning marks came during Schuller's time on the Eastern campus, as did three of the five conference semifinal appearances.

Schuller and the Eagles have made Reese Court a challenging place for visitors to play, as Eastern has compiled a commanding 38-29 mark (.567 winning percentage) in its last 67 games played there. Eastern went 8-6 at home last year en route to recording 2.5 times as many overall wins as was attained the previous year, 10.

In 2005-06, Eastern Washington qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championship for the seventh consecutive season and was the fourth seed at the event for the second straight season, its highest seeding since the 1994-95 campaign.

She led Eastern to a winning campaign in 2004-05 (16-12) to start just the team's second set of consecutive winning seasons for the Eagles since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns.

The 2003-04 season saw Eastern Washington qualify for the BSC Tournament semifinal round for the third straight season.

In 2002-03, Eastern had its first winning campaign in 16 years at 17-12 and came the closest to making the Big Sky championship game in school history, falling in the semifinal round to top seed and host Weber State by just nine points, 64-55.

In Schuller's first season of 2001-02, Eastern Washington claimed a tournament quarterfinal contest as the fifth seed for the first of two straight seasons. The Eagles topped No. 4 Northern Arizona 70-57 to mark its furthest advancement in the tournament in seven years.

Prior to arriving at Eastern, Schuller began her coaching career at Northwestern State University. In 1993, she started coaching as a graduate assistant for the Lady Demons while earning a master's degree in sports administration.

Following graduation, she became a full-time assistant, and her duties included acting as defensive coordinator and primary recruiter and working with opponent preparation and general operations.

In 1997, she was promoted to associate head coach.

Her last six years at the Natchitoches, La., school saw her also serve as the senior woman administrator.

In total, Schuller coached for nine seasons at NSU under head coach James Smith, the most successful coach in Southland Conference history.

In that time span, the team won 185 games and two conference titles and earned a pair of wins over top-25 teams as one of the top-30 winningest NCAA Division I programs of the 1990s.

Schuller earned her bachelor's degree in business in 1992 from Fresno Pacific University after playing for the Sunbirds as a shooting guard.

Her senior season, she helped lead FPU to a 25-6 record, a No. 14 national ranking in the NAIA ranks and advancement to the NAIA Tournament's Round of 16. She was also selected as an NAIA Academic All-American that season.

A native of Redlands, Calif., Schuller and her husband, Mark, have an 9-year-old son, Rory (born Oct. 16, 2000), and a 6-year-old daughter, Megan (born July 15, 2003). The family resides in Cheney.

 

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