Cooper scores 1,000th career point, as Eastern makes history with back-to-back wins at Montana and Montana State
For the first time since becoming a member of NCAA Division I athletics in 1983-84, the Eastern Washington women's basketball team has swept the Montana road trip!
Less than 48 hours after taking down perennial power Montana in Missoula, the Eagles defeated Montana State, 66-52, on Saturday (Jan. 28) at the Worthington Arena in Bozeman, Mont.
With the momentous win, Eastern extended its perfect Big Sky road record to 5-0, which is the best league road start since 1984, when EWU won its first six conference road games.
"It really means a lot that we were able to do this," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "We have a pretty special group of seniors who have accomplished a lot of 'firsts' for this program. It was very special for them to get this one, and well earned. But as happy as we all are, we are ready to refocus on our next opponent. Right now, every game is just as important as any other, and we have to continue to take it one game at a time."
With the win in Bozeman, Eastern (13-9, 7-2 Big Sky) swept the regular-season series against Montana State, and in doing so, took sole possession of second place in the Big Sky standings. The Eagles are still a game and a half behind league leader, Idaho State (16-5, 8-0). The Bobcats fall to 14-7 overall and are one game behind Eastern in the Big Sky race at 6-3.
Eastern prevailed on Saturday thanks to an unrelenting defensive effort. The Eagles held MSU to 31.3 percent shooting - the worst output by any of Eastern's Division I opponents this season. Montana State hit just 1-of-20 3-point attempts throughout the game, and converted only seven total field goals in the second half.
"Montana State has great guards and a couple great bigs," said Schuller. "We knew we needed to take away one of those areas, and we decided it would work best for us to take away their perimeter game. Our team focused and prepared themselves well, and then executed the game plan to a T."
Montana State's senior guard Katie Bussey, who averages 16.9 points per game to rank third in the Big Sky, was held to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
"We have a lot respect for Bussey as a player," said Schuller. "To limit her touches and overall points the way we did was big for us."
Senior Brianne Ryan was the player guarding Bussey most of the night. In addition to shutting down the opponent's leading scorer, Ryan put up a game-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while also contributing eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Besides a two-point deficit after Montana State scored the first basket of the game, EWU never trailed in the contest. Eastern, which is 12-1 this season when leading at the half, out-scored the Bobcats 36-28 in the first period.
By the 15:25 mark of the second half, Eastern built that lead to 14 at 44-30. The closest the Bobcats came was within eight with 10 minutes left to play, but then a couple of layups from sophomore Aubrey Ashenfelter and junior Carrie Ojeda put the Eagles back up by double-digits, which they maintained the rest of the way.
Ojeda was one rebound shy of a double-double, as she finished with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. She also added two assists, two steals and three blocks. Ashenfelter chipped in eight points, as did freshman Melissa Williams, who also grabbed eight rebounds.
In addition to helping her team make history in Bozeman, Eastern's senior point guard Chene Cooper reached a significant individual milestone as well. With 13 points against the Bobcats, Cooper joined the prestigious 1,000-point club at EWU. The 5-foot-0 captain now has 1,005 career tallies, to go along with 476 career assists and a school record 244 steals.
Now riding a three-game winning streak, Eastern will return to Cheney on Thursday (Feb. 2) to take on Northern Arizona at 6:05 p.m. on Reese Court.