March 15, 2010

Eastern to Play Rematch at Oregon in WNIT

In first national postseason appearance since 1987, Eagles will return to Eugene where they fell to the Ducks 86-48 on Nov. 16

Making its first national postseason appearance since 1987, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team will get a rematch in Eugene, Ore., and play Oregon on Thursday (March 18) in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The complete bracket is available at http://womensnit.com.

Eastern will take a 19-11 record into its game against the 16-15 Ducks of the Pac-10 Conference. Eastern earned an automatic berth into the WNIT by virtue of its first-ever Big Sky Conference regular season title. Eastern finished 12-4 in league play to earn the top seed and host status for the league tournament, but had its NCAA Tournament hopes dashed with a 65-57 loss to sixth-seeded Montana State in the tournament semifinals.

“We feel honored and privileged just to have another opportunity to play,” said Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller. For our program to play in a prestigious postseason tournament like the WNIT is great thing for us. It’s another great step forward for the direction we want our program to go.”

The Ducks opened their season with an 86-48 victory over the Eagles on Nov. 16 in Eugene. In that game, Oregon led 11-2 less than four minutes into the game and 47-25 at halftime.

“We know that Oregon is a great team,” said Schuller. “They proved throughout the season that they were a team to be reckoned with in the Pac 10 Conference -- they had a great year. But we could have told people that early in the year.”

Oregon’s first-year head coach is Paul Westhead, who came to Oregon with a coaching resume that spans nearly four decades, including stints in the NBA, WNBA and the men's collegiate ranks. Known for executing an exciting brand of run-and-gun basketball, Westhead recently coached the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA championship in 2007. His latest hardware made him the only head coach to win a championship in both the NBA (1980 with the Los Angeles Lakers) and WNBA.

The Ducks, who were just 9-21 overall and 5-10 in the Pacific 10 Conference in 2008-09, finished 7-11 in the league this season. The Ducks averaged 81.4 points per game and averaged 23 three-point attempts per game, making an average of just over eight per game. A year ago, Oregon was the lowest-scoring team in the Pac-10, averaging less than 57 points a game.

Schuller believes league games against the similar style of Sacramento State will help the Eagles on Thursday. Eastern beat the Hornets 90-85 in Sacramento before falling at home 78-69.

“Oregon has a pressing, high-tempo offense -- they really like to shoot the three and have players that can score,” added Schuller. “They want to get up and down the court, much like we faced against Sacramento State, but with Pac 10-caliber players. Having faced them before and having faced that style in our league will help prepare us for the challenge ahead. It’s tough playing in Eugene, but the positive is that there will be some familiarity and it won’t be a totally foreign experience to us.”

The 1987 Eastern team finished second behind Montana in the league standings (the Big Sky was then known as the Mountain West Athletic Conference), but knocked off the Grizzlies 77-74 in Missoula in the tournament championship game. That earned EWU its first and only women’s berth to the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Oregon 75-56.

 

Previous Meeting . . . Ducks Run Away With 86-48 Victory Over Eagles: Oregon scored five seconds into the game on a three-pointer to take the lead for good as they rolled to an 86-48 victory over Eastern Washington Nov. 16 in Eugene, Ore., in the women's collegiate basketball debut for Oregon's Paul Westhead.

The Ducks led 11-2 less than four minutes into the game, then led 47-25 at halftime. Oregon continued to build its lead in the second half before winning by 38 points. Eastern junior Julie Piper led the Eagles with 10 points and eight rebounds, and junior Kyla Evans added eight points and five boards.

The Ducks out-shot (41 percent to 29 percent) and out-rebounded (51-37) the Eagles, and made eight three-pointers compared to just three for the Eagles. Oregon also had a commanding 26-7 advantage in free throws.

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