Eastern prepares to face defensive-minded Bears in final home game for nearly three weeks
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team currently has the most conference wins of any team in the Big Sky. The Eagles will look to add one more their record when they host defending Big Sky regular-season co-champion, Northern Colorado on Saturday (Jan. 14) at 2:05 p.m. on Reese Court.
Eastern (10-8, 4-1 Big Sky) has won three games in a row and five of its last six, which includes a complete rout of Sacramento State in its most recent outing. Five different Eagles scored in double-figures in the game, while the team set a season-high in rebounds. Eastern handled Sac State's high tempo and fast-paced press with little trouble, but the Eags better be ready to switch gears, as the team it faces next has a completely different style than the Hornets.
Northern Colorado, which beat Eastern twice during the 2010-11 season en route to its first regular-season title, is currently near the bottom of the Big Sky in terms of scoring offense. The Bears average just 61.1 points per game this season with only 3.8 3-pointers per game - the fewest in the conference. Sac State was No. 1 in both categories, averaging 73.5 total points and 7.3 threes.
But where UNC has the advantage over Sac, and most everyone else in the league as well, is in defense. The Bears rank third overall in scoring defense and third in field goal percentage defense. Northern Colorado's opponents average just under 60 points per game, while shooting 36 percent from the field.
And although the Bears do not score a lot of points, the ones they do are at a high efficiency. Northern Colorado is tied for the top field goal percentage in the Sky at 42.6, which also ranks in the top 50 nationally.
"Northern Colorado is really talented," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "They are very good defensively. Their style of play is to grind it out and force teams to work extremely hard for every shot. Offensively, they have a couple of really solid posts and their point guard, [D'shara] Strange, is a real up-and-comer in this league."
Strange is among the top five in the Big Sky in both scoring and rebounding. She averages 14.6 points and 8.1 boards.
Northern Colorado will come to Cheney after enduring a heartbreaking 62-61 loss to Portland State on Thursday. The Bears lost in the final seconds of the game after PSU's Kate Lanz drained two free throws with only four ticks left on the clock. Northern Colorado has also dropped a contest this conference season to current league leader, Idaho State. But like Eastern, the Bears did defeat Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. Although, UNC beat NAU by just six points, compared to Eastern, which dominated the Lumberjacks, 74-56.
News & Notes
Eagles Discover Depth - For the first time in the 2011-12 season, Eastern Washington had five different players score in double figures in a 78-62 rout of Sacramento State (Jan. 12). Head coach Wendy Schuller put 14 different players into the game, and 11 of those 14 scored at least two points. Ten different Eagles had at least one assist and at least one rebound, and eight separate players had one or more steals. Sophomore Laura Hughes led the Eagles in scoring with a a career-high 14 points. She also had a career-high 11 rebounds for the first double-double of her career.
Crashing the Boards - In Eastern's dominant 78-62 win over Sac State (Jan. 12), junior Carrie Ojeda grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. She had eight on the offensive glass and seven defensive. As a team, EWU grabbed 51 total rebounds - the most for the Eagles in any game this season. EWU out-rebounded Sac State by nine, which tied the largest margin of the season for the red and white. In conference play, the Eagles have earned a + 2.0 rebounding margin, which is significantly better than its - 2.7 overall season rebounding margin.
Coop Puts Up National Numbers - Senior Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) currently ranks fourth in the nation in assists. The 5-0 point guard is averaging 7.4 assists per game - she is one of only five Division I women's basketball players accross the country that average seven or more. She leads the Big Sky in that category by more than two complete assists. Cooper has the most career assists of any active player in the Big Sky by more than 100. She currently ranks third in the EWU all-time career record book with 450, while ranking 13th in Big Sky history. Coop is also among the best in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. With 133 assists and only 58 turnovers this season, she ranks 12th among all players in Division I.
Disruptive Defense - Eastern has forced 20 or more turnovers in four of its first five Big Sky Conference games, and has had at least 12 steals in each of those contests. In it's Big Sky opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), EWU grabbed a school-record 22 steals, while MSU ended up with 28 total turnovers. At Weber State, EWU had 13 steals on 21 Wildcat miscues, and at Northern Arizona, the Eagles forced 31 turnovers - the second-most for any team in the Big Sky this season. Eastern had 17 steals in in its most recent contest against Sac State, which finished the game on Jan. 12 with 27 tunovers. The Eagles rank among the top 25 in the nation in steals, averaging 12.4 per game. And EWU's +3.4 turnover margin is second in the league and 53rd nationally.
Road Rage - In its first road trip of the Big Sky season, Eastern Washington celebrated a sweep with back-to-back wins at Weber State and Northern Arizona. With those two wins in Ogden and Flagstaff, the Eagles earned just the third league road sweep in the last decade. The two other perfect road weeks came in 2009-10 - the year EWU won the Big Sky regular-season title - when EWU won back-to-back games at Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. And in 2002-03, Eastern won two in a row at NAU and Sac State.
Presence in the Paint - Eastern's junior center Carrie Ojeda (Tacoma, Wash.) has become a big time post player for EWU. She is currently the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 9.9 points per game, and owns the top field goal percentage at 46.3. She is also leading the team in rebounds, averaging 6.7 per game. She has set or matched a career-high scoring mark in five different outings this year. She posted a career-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in Eastern's most recent win at Northern Arizona (Jan. 7). Prior to that, she twice set a career-high of 19 points against Montana State (Dec. 29) and Eastern Oregon (Dec. 12). Against the Bobcats, Ojeda was 7-of-11 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line. She hit 8-of-12 field goals agaisnt Eastern Oregon. She has had three double-doubles on the year, two of which have come in conference.
Ryan Scores 30...Again - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) registered a season-high 32 points against Weber State (Jan. 5) for her third 30+ scoring effort of the season. Only one other player in the Big Sky has hit the 30-point mark this season, and no one besides Ryan has done it more than once. She has scored in double figures in all 18 games of the 2011-12 season, which is currently the longest running streak in the Big Sky. In eight of those 17 games, Ryan has poured in 20 or more points. She ranks 22nd in the nation with a 20.0 points per game average.
Mother-Daughter Milestone - Senior Brianne Ryan scored 32 points against Weber State (Jan. 5), and in doing so, finally surpassed her mother on EWU's all-time career scoring list. Ryan now ranks seventh in the EWU record book with 1,217 career points. Her monther, Neil Ann Ryan (formerly Massie), is ninth with 1,190. Neil Ann played for Eastern from 1979-82. She is also one of only three players in EWU history to notch 1,000+ rebounds, as well as 1,000+ points. Neil Ann ranks third in EWU history for career rebounds with 1,008.
Keys to a Win - So far this season, there are a couple glaring statistics to an Eastern Washington win: field goal percentage and halftime score. The Eagles are 10-1 this year when leading at the half. When EWU has trailed or been tied at halftime, the team is 0-7. The Eagles are also 10-1 when shooting above 40 percent from the field. The Eagles have won only one in eight games where they've shot below 40 percent.
Coop Sets Career and Single-Game Steals Record - In Eastern's 2011-12 Big Sky Conference opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), senior point guard Chene Cooper broke EWU's 27-year-old career steals record and tied the school's single-game steals record, set on six different occasions. Cooper had seven steals against the Bobcats, which improved her career total to 218. She surpassed the previous career record of 212, held by Lisa Comstock, who played from 1982-85. Along with owning the top mark in EWU history, which has since improved to 234, Cooper also appears in the Big Sky record book for all-time career steals, ranking 11th in league history.
Eagles Break 32-Year-Old School Record - As a team, Eastern Washington tallied 22 steals in its Big Sky opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), and in doing so, broke a school record that had stood for 32 years. The previous team single-game steals record of 21 was set on Feb. 10, 1979 when the 1978-79 Eagle squad played Northwest Nazarene. Against the Bobcats on Dec. 29, 2011, eight of 10 players who entered the game had at least one steal, while four players had three or more. Montana State committed 28 total turnovers in the game.
Ryan Reaches 1,000 - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) scored her 1,000th career point against Arizona State on Dec. 2. Ryan is the only active Eagle to have 1,000+ points in her career, and one of only one of four in the Big Sky Conference.
3-Point Threat - Senior Brianne Ryan has hit at least one 3-pointer in 17 of 18 game this season, and has had three or more on nine differeent occasions. She drained a career-high six against Portland (Nov. 29) and had five against Boise State (Dec. 17) and Montana State (Dec. 29). She is averaging 2.6 per game, which ranks third in the Big Sky and 38th nationally. In her career, Ryan has hit 117 3-pointers, which ranks eighth in the EWU record book.
Pakootas Making an Impact - Sophomore Chenise Pakootas had a career outing in Eastern's final non-conference game against Idaho. She scored 14 points and hit a career-high four 3-pointers. Pakootas is averaging 14.9 minutes per game. She is fourth on the team in scoring and ranks among the top 10 in the Big Sky in terms of 3-point shooters, averaging 1.4 per game. Her 3-point field goal percentage of 41.1 is the best in the Big Sky.
Freshmen on the Floor - Eastern has two freshmen who are making significant contributions in their rookie seasons. Melissa Williams, a 6-1 forward, has earned a spot in Eastern's starting lineup in every game of the year. The Camas, Wash., native averages 5.1 rebounds per game to rank third on the sqaud. She has had four or more total rebounds in 12 of 18 games this year, including a career-high nine agaisnt conference foe Montana (Jan. 2). Point guard Kylie Huerta, who averages 9.1 minutes per game, has tallied 32 points and 24 assists. Huerta was an Associated Press 4A All-State Honorable Mention and two-time South Puget Sound League North Division Player of the Year out of Kentwood High School, which is the same school that produced Gonzaga legend and current WNBA star Courtney Vandersloot, as well as Nebraska standout/two-time All-Big 12 honoree, Lindsey Moore. Kentwood is also the alma-mater of EWU men's basketball legend, Rodney Stuckey.
Eagles Impress in Near Upset of Cross-Town Rival Gonzaga - The Eastern Washington University women's basketball was just moments away from pulling off a truly inspiring upset of national power and cross-town rival Gonzaga on Dec. 9 at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. After completely controlling the first half of the game, the Eagles held on to a one-point lead (69-68) with under a minute remaining. But an Eagle rebounding foul sent Naismith Trophy candidate Kayla Standish to the line with 38 ticks left on the clock. The 6-2 forward converted both free throws to give GU a narrow 70-69 edge. On Eastern's next possession, sophomore Chenise Pakootas earned a trip to the line for a chance to tie it up and possibly reclaim the lead, but she missed the front end of her one-and-one, and Standish quickly snatched the rebound. Eastern was forced to put Standish on the line again. She made her first shot, but missed the second to keep the game within a single field goal. In a fierce battle for the rebound after the missed free throw, GU's sophomore guard Haiden Palmer emerged with the ball. She was then fouled, and a similar mishap occurred when she missed her second free throw, but then corralled the offensive board. The Bulldogs went on to make three of their next four shots from the charity stripe to extend their lead to six with nine seconds left to play. Eastern tried to keep the game alive with a desperation three, but the shot was off the mark and Gonzaga came down with the rebound as time expired. Despite being the better team for much of the night, the Eagles returned to Cheney with a heartbreaking 75-69 loss. Gonzaga, the seven-time defending WCC champion, has been in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll for eight of nine weeks in the 2011-12 season.
Coop Claims All-Tournament Honors - Senior point guard Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) was named to the ASU Classic All-Tournament Team for her efforts in Eastern's two games in Tempe, Ariz., Dec 2-3. In the two games combined, Cooper averaged a combined 12.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals. Cooper turned in one of her best performances of the season against Arkansas State, with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the line. She also had four assists and three steals.
Ryan Lays Claim to Big Sky POW - For the first time in her already decorated career, senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) was selected as the Big Sky Player of the Week for games played Nov. 14 - Nov. 20. Ryan had a remarkable performance on both ends of the floor to lead Eastern to a 68-57 victory over San Diego (Nov. 17). Her all-around effort was highlighted by 30 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the floor. She scored nearly half Eastern's total points in the game to become the first player in the Big Sky this season to reach the 30-point scoring mark. Ryan's effort against USD was just three points shy of her career-high of 33, which she set last year versus Sacramento State on 14-of-18 shooting. In addition to putting points on the score board, Ryan also led all players on the glass with nine rebounds, and had three assists, one steal and one block, while playing a game-high 38 minutes against the Toreros.
Big Numbers for 2011-12 Campaign - At 17 players deep, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team begins the 2011-12 season with the biggest roster in head coach Wendy Schuller's 11-year tenure. This roster includes three returning starters from 2010-11, six other returning letterwinners, two returning redshirts, one non-lettering squad member, one transfer and four freshmen.
Building Cred in the Big Sky - The Eagles are coming off their second-straight postseason appearance. In 2010, Eastern earned an automatic bid to the Big Sky Conference semifinals after winning the regular-season title. In last year's Big Sky tourney, Eastern advanced the semis again after a 77-68 victory against Montana State in the quarterfinal round, which actually marked the first postseason win for EWU since the 2004 campaign. Eastern has earned 20 Big Sky Conference wins over the past two years, which is more than the Eagles had in the previous four seasons combined. In 2009-10, EWU captured the school's first-ever Big Sky regular-season title with a 12-4 league record.
Academic Excellence - In the past 10 seasons, Eastern Washington women's basketball players have been honored 81 times on the Big Sky All-Academic list, which is the most for any women's basketball team in the league. The Eagles have also been recognized on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for nine of the past 10 seasons. Eastern was among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those 10 years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.
Baby Bonanza - Three of Eastern's four coaches have all had a baby in the last 18 months! Coach Schuller and her husband, Mark, had their third child, Brandon, in June 2010. Assistant coach Alison Hewa had her first child, Hannah, last January, and just a few months after arriving on the EWU campus, assistant coach Steve Lowe welcomed his first child, Harper (born Sept. 25, 2011).