Finally at Home, Eastern Out for Vengeance Against UNC and ISU
Eagles host league-leading Bears on Thursday before home matchup with Bengals on Saturday
EWU vs. Northern Colorado
Thursday, Feb. 3 - 7:05 p.m. PST
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
EWU vs. Idaho State
Saturday, Feb. 5 - 2:05 p.m. PST
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
(All home games and all Big Sky Conference games)
After playing five of its last six games on the road, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team returns to Reese Court this week to face the Big Sky's current leader Northern Colorado and its most recent foe, Idaho State. Eastern will play UNC on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. and ISU on Saturday at 2:05 p.m.
The Eagles fell to the Bengals in their most recent outing in Pocatello on Jan. 29. Eastern was down by 17 points midway through the second half, but rallied to make it an exciting game, as it lost by just six in the final seconds, 75-69. The Eagles also dropped its road match at UNC by almost the exact same margin. EWU lost in Greeley on Jan. 15, 75-68.
Eastern hopes its home court advantage this weekend will produce a different result against both opponents.
"Well, when we landed Sunday in Spokane, there was certainly a sense of relief from everyone on the team knowing we weren't going to have to get back on a plane again for at least 12 days," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "We are glad to be home, and ready to get back into a rhythm both academically and on the court. But it is imperative that we 'hold serve' this weekend, and we will have to do so against two very strong Big Sky teams."
Northern Colorado is currently atop the Big Sky standings with a 7-1 league record. The Bears have won six-straight games, but five of those six were at the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion in Greeley, Colo. UNC has been on the road just once in the last three weeks.
In the first meeting of the regular season, UNC topped Eastern, 75-68 after forcing a season-high 25 turnovers by the Eagles. The Bears also got to the line 14 times in the game to register 23 points from the charity stripe. Eastern did out-score UNC 43-38 in the second half, but it was not enough to erase the 12-point hole it had dug in the first 20 minutes.
"We have to be better defensively," said Schuller. "We are giving up too many points and letting teams shoot too high of a percentage against us. We also need to focus on and execute in areas we know we do well, instead of getting wrapped up with what the other team is doing."
Since the start of conference play, UNC's sophomore forward Lauren Oosdyke has been the main offensive threat, averaging 17.1 points per game on a .563 field goal percentage. UNC's freshman guard D'shara Strange has also averaged double-digits in conference play, and leads the team in rebounding with 5.3 boards per game.
The all-time series between the Bears and Eagles now stands at 6-3, in favor of Northern Colorado. The Eagles are 2-2 against the Bears when playing in Cheney.
Eastern's strategy of rigid defense will also be key on Saturday when it takes on Idaho State. The Bengals, who own the same league record as Eastern at 4-3, shot 54 percent against EWU on Jan. 29, which was the second-best field goal percentage recorded in all Big Sky games played this season. In the first half, the Bengals missed only nine shots total (14-23) and had triple the amount of points in the paint.
"We have to be able to defend hard for a long period of time because Idaho State will really grind it out offensively," said Schuller. "We had success against them when we pushed the pace and hurried them, so that is something we will try to focus on doing."
So far in ISU's seven Big Sky games of the season, sophomore forward Ashleigh Vella has been the leading scorer, averaging 15.6 points per game. Vella had 27 tallies against EWU on the 29th, shooting 79 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Kaela Oakes has averaged 13.7 points per game in Big Sky action, and leads her team in assists with 25.
Eastern owns a narrow 33-30 edge on ISU in the all-time series, but the Bengals have won 12 of the last 13 meetings. Last year, EWU defeated Idaho State in Cheney, 70-60, which snapped a 10-game losing skid against the Bengals. In Schuller's nine and a half years with the Eagles, the team is 4-6 against ISU when playing at Reese Court.
Eagle Fast Breaks
Home Sweet Home: After playing five of its seven games on the road in the month of January, the Eagles will get to play six of their final nine conference games at home on Reese Court.
Big Sky is Neck-and-Neck: Four teams in the Big Sky, including Eastern, are tied with a 4-3 league record.
Efficiency Improves as Conference Continues: Since the start of conference play, Eastern has shot 42 percent from the field (193-456), and out-scored its opponents 523-484. During its 12 non-conference games, EWU shot 39 percent (304-784), and was getting out-scored 820-808.
Among the Sky's Top Three: Eastern is the best offensive rebounding team in the league with 16.5 offensive boards per game. The Eags are second in rebounding margin (+3.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9), and third in scoring offense (70.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.733) and assists (14.4 apg).
Keys to Success: The Eagles are 8-2 this season in games they are leading at the half. The team is 0-9 when they are trailing at intermission. Eastern is also 8-2 in games where it shoots a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. When the opposing team turns in a better FG pct., EWU is 0-9.
Eastern's Versatile Offense: Eastern is one of only two teams in the Big Sky to have at least four players with double-digit scoring averages (Montana State has five). Brianne Ryan leads the way for EWU at 14.5, followed by Tatjana Sparavalo (12.5), Julie Piper (11.3) and Chene Cooper (11.2).
Perils from the Perimeter: As a team, Eastern ranks eighth in the Big Sky Conference in three-point field goal percentage (.296), and ninth in three-point field goal percentage defense. EWU's opponents are knocking down 37 percent of its perimeter shots.
Injury Report: Eastern has two players who are currently sidelined due to injury. Breauna Russell has missed the last eight games due to a stress reaction in her right foot. Senior guard Kyla Evans has been out for the last six games as a result of ongoing pain in her back. Neither injury is season-ending, and the status of both players is day-to-day.
Chene Cooper is averaging 5.9 assists per game, which ranks 14th in Division I women's basketball. That average is the best in the Big Sky, as is her assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9 (112-59). Cooper is the only player in the league to have had 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 10+ assists at least once this season.
Brianne Ryan has scored in double digits in 16 of 19 games this season, including the last eight in a row. She turned in the single-best offensive performance of all players in Big Sky with 33 points against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. In conference only statistics, Ryan leads the league in scoring at 20.3 ppg, which is at least two more than any other player in the league. In all games of the 2010-11 season, Ryan ranks fourth in the Big Sky at 14.5. She is shooting 50 percent from the field, which ranks 59th in the nation and third overall in the Big Sky Conference.
Tatjana Sparavalo has had seven-consecutive double-digit scoring games. She is one of only four players in the Big Sky to have at least four double-doubles this season, and she ranks in the top 15 in the Big Sky in scoring (12.5), rebounding (5.6) and three-point field goal percentage (.397).
Julie Piper, the defending Big Sky MVP, leads all seniors in Big Sky in field goal percentage (.489) and free throw percentage (.822). She is also among the top five rebounders in the league with 6.9 boards per game.
Carrie Ojeda has played a pivotal role in Eastern's defensive effort this season. Ojeda is among the top 15 rebounders in the Big Sky, averaging 5.2 caroms per contest. She is fifth in the league and among the top 200 in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 1.2 per game.
Eagle News & Notes
Ojeda Turns it On
Carrie Ojeda recorded her first-career double-doubleon Jan. 27 against Portland State. She had 11 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds in EWU's narrow 77-70 loss to the Vikings. Both were career highs for the sophomore forward. She is now one of five Eagles to register at least one double-double in 2010-11.
Ryan Turns in Top Offensive Performance in Big Sky
Junior Brianne Ryan poured in a career-high 33 points against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. She converted 14-of-18 shot from the field, which is also a career high in field goals made for the junior. Her 33 tallies was only five shy of the EWU school record for points in a single game, held by Vanessa Jones (1989-1991), who scored 38 against Lewis-Clark on Dec. 5, 1990. It is also the single-best offensive performance, in terms of points and field goals made, for any player in the Big Sky this season. Ryan has scored in double digits in all but three of Eastern's contests this year, including the last eight in a row. She is averaging 21.2 points in conference play, which is at least two points more than any other player in the league.
Coop Climbing the Charts
Just a junior, Chene Cooper has already cracked the top 10 list in two categories of the EWU career record book. Cooper has 145 total steals thus far in her career, which ties for fourth in the EWU record book. Fifty-seven of those steals came last season, which is the seventh-best single-season performance in Eastern history. She has 271 total assists in her career, which ranks ninth in the record book. Coop has had two games this season with 10+ assists, including a career-high 14 against Sacramento State on Jan. 22. That passing performance was the best turned in by any player in the Big Sky this season.
Piper Rules Big Sky's Senior Class
Julie Piper has proved to be the most efficient senior shooter in the Big Sky Conference at this point in the season. She owns the top mark for all seniors in the league in field goal percentage (.489) and free throw percentage (.822). Piper also has the most career rebounds (681) of all active players in the Big Sky, and is one of seven active players to have 1,000+ points in her career. Piper hit the 1,000-point mark this season, and now has 1,067 in her career, which is just of the top 10 in the EWU record book.
Sparavalo Sizzles Off the Bench
Eastern's "sixth man," Tatjana Sparavalo, has scored in double figures in 14 of Eastern's 19 games, including the last seven in a row. She is currently Eastern's second-leading scorer with 12.5 points per game, which she has earned in 384 minutes off the bench. She has recorded four double-doubles this season, an accomplishment only two other players in the Big Sky have reached. She tied her career high scoring mark with 24 points in Eastern's narrow 75-68 loss at Northern Colorado. She had four three pointers in that contest.
Evans Dominates from Downtown
With 22 treys already this season, senior Kyla Evans has moved up to second in the Eastern record book for career three pointers made. She has 192 total in her tenure, which is just three shy of the current record of 195. She is also one of only three active players in the Big Sky who has 150+ career three-pointers and the only current Eagle who appears in the Big Sky record book, as she is eighth in career three pointers (192) and tied for 20th in career three-point field goal percentage (.379).
One Night, Two Career Highs for Coop
Junior Chene Cooper had a career night in Eastern's 75-67 win over UC Irvine on Dec. 15 and in EWU's 73-44 rout of Saint Martin's on Dec. 11. The five-foot point guard scored 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting against the Anteaters, and pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds in the contest. Her previous career highs in those categories were 23 points and eight rebounds.
Freshman Aubrey Ashenfelter has seen minutes in every game of the 2010-11 season. As Eastern's backup point guard, she averages 15.1 minutes per game. A product of Southridge High School in Portland, Ore., Ashenfelter averages 2.6 points per game for Eastern and has dished out 31 assists, the third-most on the team. Freshman Laura Hughes, who came to Eastern from Richland, Wash., has also been an important player off the bench this season. As Eastern's tallest player at 6-2, Hughes provides depth in the post, averaging 1.9 rebounds per game and 3.1 points. She has played 123 total minutes this season, including a season-high 22 against national-powerhouse Gonzaga on Dec. 3.
Julie Piper has not missed a single game since the first time she stepped on the court as a freshman in 2007. She played in all 29 games during her rookie season, all 29 as a sophomore in 2008-09 and all 31 last year, as well as all 15 of the current season. She has started 99 of those 106 games. Besides her consistent court presence, Piper has scored at least two points in every game since Feb. 14, 2009 (0 vs. ISU), and has had at least two rebounds in every game since Nov. 28. 2008 (2 vs. UNLV). This season, Piper has had 11 double-digit scoring outings, and two of 20 or more points.
The 2010-11 Eastern Washington women's basketball team boasts one of the most versatile squads in the league. In Eastern's 13 games thus far in the season, five different players have led the team in scoring. The same depth is evident on the defensive end, as six different Eagles have led in rebounding this year. EWU has four players with double-digit scoring averages, and three players who average five or more rebounds per game. Each class (Fr., So., Jr., Sr.) is represented in the aforementioned statistics.
There's No Place Like Home
Six of Eastern's eight wins in the 2010-11 season have come on Reese Court. The Eagles have dropped only two contests in Cheney, both of which were to powerful opponents from the West Coast Conference. The Eagles fell to Portland in its second outing of the year, 77-58. Eastern then dropped a 101-74 decision at the hands of Gonzaga, who was a sweet 16 team in 2010 and has received votes in nearly half of the AP Top 25 polls this season. Eastern shoots 44 percent from the field at home, compared to 39 percent when on the road. EWU has also out-rebounded its opponents on Reese Court, 324-286, and has a 144-92 edge in assists.
Sparavalo Earns December Scholar-Athlete Honors
Senior Tatjana Sparavalo was selected as EWU's Female Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December. Sparavalo, a native of Novi Sad, Serbia, earned her bachelor's degree from Eastern in just three years. With a 3.62 cumulative GPA, she graduated cum laude in 2010 with a degree in business administration. She is currently working on her master's in business at EWU. One of three seniors on the 2010-11 squad, Sparavalo has provided incredible leadership on and off the court. She serves as Eastern's invaluable "sixth man," averaging 19.9 minutes off the bench. She is the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the team with 12.2 points and 5.6 caroms per contest. Sparavalo has also made the most three pointers of any player on the EWU roster (31). Eleven of her 31 treys came in the month of December, and her percentage in the six games on the month was an even .500. Beyond her athletic contributions, Sparavalo has been named to the Big Sky All-Academic team for three consecutive years.
Piper Named to Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team
Julie Piper was selected as one of five standout players for the 24th Annual Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team. Piper averaged 15.0 points per game in the two games played in Boulder, Colo., on Nov. 26 and 27. She shot an impressive 52 percent from the field and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. With those eight made free throws over the weekend, she moved into the top 10 in the Eastern record book for career free throws made. Piper registered her first double-double of the season against the Ramblers with 20 points and 13 rebounds. She was 7-of-15 from the field, and knocked down all six of her attempts from the charity stripe. She also scored in double digits against the Purple Aces, tallying 10 points of 4-of-6 shooting. Although her time on the floor was limited due to foul trouble, she added six rebounds and two steals in just 15 minutes.
Piper Selected as Candidate for Lowe's Senior CLASS Award
EWU senior forward Julie Piper was selected as one of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as a NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The 2011 women's candidate class includes five players who were CoSIDA Academic All-Americans last year, 22 student-athletes with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, four players who participated in the 2010 Women's Final Four and 15 players on the preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award. The candidate class will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
Current Eagle Brianne Ryan is the daughter of one of the all-time greats in the Eastern Washington Women's Basketball program, Neil Ryan (formerly Neil Ann Massie). Neil Ryan played basketball for EWU from 1979-82, and is the third-leading rebounder in school history with 1,008 career rebounds. Her career rebounding average of 8.47 ranks fourth in the EWU record book, while her 346 rebounds in the 1979 season is the fourth-best single season performance in program history. She is also one of the all-time leading scorers, as her 1,190 career points ranks seventh overall in the EWU record book. She ranks sixth in career field goals made (509) and tenth in field goals attempted (1,001). EWU's relationship with the Ryan family does not stop there. Head coach Wendy Schuller recently signed Brianne's younger sister and Neil's youngest daughter, Kayleigh, to a national letter of intent to play basketball at Eastern starting in the 2011-12 school year.
Eagles Sign Four for 2011-12 Season
Four high school seniors from the state of Washington have signed national letters of intent to play basketball at Eastern Washington University. The members of the 2011 recruiting class include 5-foot-1 point guard Kylie Huerta from Kentwood High School, 5-11 guard Kayleigh Ryan from Lynden Christian High School, 6-0 forward Melissa Williams from Camas High School in Vancouver and 5-10 shooting guard Hayley Hodgins from Chiawana High School in Pasco. Huerta was ranked among the top 110 point guards in the nation according to ESPN Hoopgurlz.com, and earned South Puget Sound League North Division Co-MVP honors in 2010 after leading the league in points per game (18.9) and steals (57). Ryan, sister of current Eagle, Brianne Ryan, is a dual-sport athlete, earning letters in basketball and volleyball at Lynden Christian. As a junior on the basketball team, she averaged nine points, eight rebounds and 4.7 assists per game for the Lyncs. Williams was selected as the 2010 Greater St. Helen's League Player of the Year and the Columbian's All-Region Player of the Year. She led her team to the Class 3A District Championship in 2010, averaging 16 points per game throughout the year. Hodgins was a member of the Columbia Basin Big Nine Cascaded Division first-team in 2010 and was twice named the Tri-City Herald Athlete of the Week. Hodgins was the league's leading scorer during her junior year, averaging 18.4 points per game. She shot 46 percent from three-point range, which was also the best in the league.
Bringing Back the Blog
Senior Kyla Evans, is "bringing back the blog." As a freshman in 2007, Evans provided a blog for readers of www.goeags.com. Now, as a senior captain on the EWU squad, Evans will return to her role as the public voice of Eastern Washington women's basketball. Once a month, she will provide commentary on the happenings of the squad, as they strive for another memorable season! Check back to the women's basketball page on www.goeags.com to follow Kyla and her creative contributions.
Accomplishments Under Schuller
- The 2009-10 squad won the school's first-ever Big Sky Conference regular-season title and hosted the league tournament for the first time in school history.
- The 2009-10 Eagles advanced to the Women's National Invitation Tournament, which marked the first national postseason appearance for EWU since 1987.
- Eastern earned an overall record of 19-12 and conference record of 12-4 in 2009-10, which were the best recorded by an EWU team since the 1984-35 season.
- Julie Piper was named 2010 Big Sky Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player in program history to earn such an honor.
- Schuller was selected as the 2010 Big Sky Coach of the Year. She has collected 113 wins at EWU, which is the second-most victories in school history.
- The Eagles have advanced to the Big Sky Conference semifinals in six of Schuller's nine years at the helm of the program (2002-06, 2010).
- For the past nine-consecutive seasons, Eastern has earned a spot on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll -- something achieved by only one other team in Division I history (Indiana State). Eastern has been among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those nine years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.
- Two Eagles have attained ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second-team honors -- Joanna Chadd in 2006-07 and Kathleen Nygaard in 2003-04.
- Kyla Evans received ESPN The Magazine All-District VIII honors in 2009.
- The past nine seasons, 74 players have earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, the most in the league.