December 6, 2012

Eagles Head to Boise State for Final Non-Conference Tune-Up

Eastern looking to break losing skid before its taxing 20-game conference season begins

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Eastern at Boise State
Friday, Dec. 7 | 6 p.m. PT
Taco Bell Arena | Boise, Idaho
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The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team continues its seven-game road swing this weekend when it travels to Boise, Idaho to face the Broncos of Boise State on Friday (Dec. 7) at 6 p.m. Pacific time.

Eastern will have nearly two weeks off from competition following this contest, but it is technically the final outing before the 2012-13 Big Sky season commences on Dec. 20.

“We are really looking forward to the stretch between Boise State and our first conference game,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “It is finals week, but that break will just give us time to figure some things out - what’s been good and what’s been bad during our non-conference season. We can really reevaluate our team at this point in the season, and figure out if we need to add anything to our game or negate some things.”

Eastern is coming off two tough losses to a couple neighboring rivals in Idaho and Gonzaga. Although Eastern actually shot the ball better than both opponents, the Eagles were plagued by turnovers and lost the rebounding battle as well. In fact, when EWU commits more turnovers than its opponent, the team is 1-4 this year, and when the Eags get out-rebounded, they are 0-4.

Eastern will look to get back on track in several of those areas when they visit Boise for the 22nd time in school history. Although a familiar trip for the Eagles, as it was part of their conference slate for nine years from 1987-1996, it is not necessarily a friendly one.

EWU is 5-16 all-time when playing in Boise. One of those five victories did come during Schuller’s tenure, when Eastern defeated the Broncos, 55-42, back in 2002.

In the most recent meeting between the two teams, Boise State had the edge, earning a 72-63 victory in Cheney on Dec. 17, 2011. Four different Broncos scored in double figures in that game, but three of the four were seniors who graduated at the end of the season.  

Eastern will be the third Big Sky school Boise State has faced this year. The Broncos topped Weber State, 70-56, before dropping a 64-55 decision at home to defending Big Sky Champion Idaho State.

Fast Look at the [Probable] Starting Five


#13 | LEXIE NELSON (GUARD)

• Nelson has scored in double figures in six of seven games this year, including a career-high 23 points in Eastern’s first win of the season against Portland (Nov. 18). In the game agaisnt Idaho (Nov. 27), she made 8-of-11 shots for a season-high field goal percentage of 72.7.

• Averaging 14.7 points per game, Nelson is currently Eastern’s leading scorer, while ranking among the top five in the Big Sky. She also ranks among the top 10 in the league in 3-point field goals, free throw percentage and minutes played.  She has hit three 3-pointers in back-to-back games.
• Nelson has earned a trip to the free throw line 41 times this season, which accounts for nearly half of the entire team’s total free-throw attempts on the year.
• A transfer from Big Sky rival Montana, Nelson sat out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules. As a freshman with the Lady Griz, Nelson played in 32 of 33 games, including three postseason contests. Coincidentally, Nelson had her best offensive performance of the year in a regular-season game against Eastern Washington, scoring 14 points for UM.

#21 | CARRIE OJEDA (CENTER)

• Averaging a team-leading 9.0 rebounds per game, Ojeda ranks among the top three in the Big Sky and top 75 nationally. She posted a career-high 17 boards in the season debut against Pacific (Nov. 11), and has had at least five boards in her five other appearances this year.

• After leading the league in 2011-12 with a 1.7 blocks per game average, Ojeda has tallied eight already this year, including her 100th-career block. Ojeda ranks seventh in the EWU all-time career record book in that category, now wil 101. She says blocking shots is her favorite part of the game.
• Including two already this season, Ojeda has posted eight double-doubles throughout her career.

#30 | CHENISE PAKOOTAS (GUARD)

• Pakootas has had at least three steals in four of seven games this season. She is leading the Eagles with a 2.3 steals per game average, while ranking seventh in the league.

• After averaging 13.6 minutes as a sophomore, Pakootas has more than doubled her minutes this season, averaging 28.4 now as a starter for the Eagles.

• Pakootas was the most efficient 3-point shooter in the Big Sky Conference in 2011-12, converting 40 percent of her long-range shots. She is currently averaging 1.1 3-pointers per game, which ranks in the top 15 in the Big Sky. She hit a career-high four against the nationally-ranked California Golden Bears.

#32 | AUBREY ASHENFELTER (GUARD)

• With 1,357 minutes played thus far in her career, Ashenfelter is the second-most experienced player on the team. She appeared in all 31 games as a true freshman in 2010-11 and started 29 of 30 last year. But her responsiblities have changed this year, from a role player to an aggressive, more consistent scorer.

• Ashenfelter posted a season-high 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting in Eastern’s most recent outing at Gonzaga. She earned her first-career double-double earlier this season in a win against Portland (Nov. 18), with 11 points and 10 rebounds. She followed that career-performance with a 12-point effort against Cal on Nov. 23, and had nine tallies the next day in a win over Fullerton.

• Ashenfelter is a two-time Big Sky All-Academic honoree.

#42 | MELISSA WILLIAMS (FORWARD)

• After posting a season-high nine rebounds on two different occasions in 2011-12, Williams has posted a new a career-high of 10 boards already this year, including 10 in EWU’s most recent game at Gonzaga. She is the second-leading rebounder on the team this year, averaging 5.7 per game. But while her rebounding has been commendable, Schuller needs Williams to become a consistent offensive threat as well.

• Williams was one of only two true freshmen in the Big Sky to start every game of the 2011-12 season.

• As a rookie in 2011-12, Williams had at least five rebounds in 11 of 16 conference games, and improved her shooting efficiency from 39 percent in the non-conference season to 46 percent in league play.

Eagle News & Notes


EARLY-SEASON OBSERVATIONS

• After shooting a combined 30.1 percent from the field in the first two games of the year, EWU has shot 40 percent or better in four of its last five outings, including a season-best 46.0 percent on the road against the nationally-ranked California Golden Bears. EWU recorded a season-high 10 3-pointers in that game.

• Eastern has had five different players lead the team in scoring this year. Sophomore Lexie Nelson has had four team-high performances, while senior Carrie Ojeda and juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter, Chenise Pakootas and Laura Hughes have all led in points at least once. While they do have versatility in scoring, the Eagles are still looking for one or two more players who can produce big numbers on a consistent basis. Nelson is the only Eagle currently averaging double digits at 14.7 points per game. No other player on the team has been able to string together two or more games in a row in double figures.

• Eastern is also a versatile rebounding team, as six different players have led on the glass at least once this year. Senior Carrie Ojeda, juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter and Laura Hughes, and sophomore Melissa Williams have each posted at least one double-digit rebounding effort already this year.

• Although Eastern has not had many high-scoring affairs this season, the Eagles have held six of its seven opponents so far to under 70 points. EWU’s scoring defense average of 64.1 ppg currently ranks sixth out of 11 teams in the Big Sky.  In the two games it has won, Eastern held the opponent to under 60.

• Eastern may not score as many points as other Big Sky teams, as it currently ranks eighth in scoring offense with an average of 55.3 points per game, but its overall field goal percentage is one of the top five in the league. EWU is making 38.1 percent of its shots from the field, and almost 31 percent from beyond the arc, which is the third-best average in the Big Sky. Eastern’s most dangerous threats on the perimeter in terms of efficiency are junior guard Aubrey Ashenfelter and sophomore guard Lexie Nelson, who currently rank third and fourth in the league, respectively.

PEAK PERFORMERS

• Sophomore Lexie Nelson poured in career-high 23 points on a 7-of-12 performance from the floor to lead Eastern to a 68-50 rout of Portland (Nov. 18) - its first win of the 2012-13 season. Nelson drained three 3-pointers and made 6-of-7 from the charity stripe. All this came in the midst of suffering a bloody nose midway through the game. She has scored 19 points in Eastern’s two most recent games, which includes a season-best 8-of-11 effort from the floor against Idaho (Nov. 27).

• Sophomore Kylie Huerta had a stellar performance against former and future Big Sky member, Idaho. Coming off the bench, she contributed seven points, seven rebounds and six assists - all of which were career highs for the 5-1 point guard.

• Junior Laura Hughes had a career-night in Eastern’s road game at Idaho on Nov. 27. The 6-2 center made 8-of-12 shots from the floor and went a perfect 4-of-4 from the line for a career-high and team-leading 20 points. She also led EWU on the glass with nine rebounds, and contributed a steal. She had 16 points in the second half, which helped EWU overcome a 12-point halftime deficit and take a lead with five minutes remaining in the game.

• Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter had an impressive stat line in Eastern’s first win against Portland (Nov. 18). The 6-0 guard posted her first-career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but she also tied her career-high in assists with six, and tallied two steals and one block. Ashenfelter was 5-of-8 against the Pilots, after going just 4-of-17 in the first two outings of 2012-13. In the very next game against nationally-ranked California, Ashenfelter made 5-of-11 shots, including two 3-pointers, for a team-leading 12 points, to go along with four assists, three rebounds and two steals. But her season-high scoring mark came in the most recent outing at Gonzaga (Dec. 4), where she scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

• Senior Carrie Ojeda hauled in a career-high 17 rebounds in the 2012-13 season debut against Pacific (Nov. 11). She also added 14 points for her first double-double of the year, and the seventh in her career. Ojeda had 10 defensive rebounds and seven on the offensive glass to lead all players in the game by at least seven. She also led Eastern in assists (4) and blocked shots (4) in that game. Ojeda notched her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 50-45 win over Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 24).

GATORADE GIRLS

• This year, Eastern Washington boasts not one, but two Gatorade Players of the Year on its roster. A product of Butte (Mont.) High School, sophomore Lexie Nelson was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Montana in 2010, while freshman Tisha Phillips, a graduate of Lewiston (Idaho) High School, earned the honor for Idaho in 2012. Nelson was a four-time Class AA All-State selection, and led her team to back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Montana State Championships. Phillips was a two-time First-Team All-State selection, and won two Idaho 5A state titles with the Bengals.

PRESEASON TALKING POINTS

• Eastern won their lone exhibition game on Nov. 4 against the NAIA’s Carroll College. EWU out-scored the Saints by 22 in the second half to roll to a 65-38 victory. Nine different Eagles contributed points in the game, led by sophomore Lexie Nelson, who poured in 19.

• Eastern returns three starters and six other letterwinners, as well as three redshirts and four newcomers. But for the first time in three years, the Eagles will not welcome back an All-Big Sky player. Following the 2011-12 season, Eastern graduated two-time unanimous first-team selection and 2012 Big Sky MVP Brianne Ryan, as well as second-team honoree Chene Cooper, who accounted for nearly 50 percent of the Eagle scoring a year ago.
• Eastern Washington was picked eighth in the 2012-13 Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ and Media Poll - a ranking that would leave Eastern just out of the seven-team postseason tournament. But Eastern is certainly familiar with that kind of prediction - and familiar with proving it wrong. Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Eagles were selected seventh by both the coaches and media. That year, EWU went on to win the school’s first-ever Big Sky regular-season title with a 12-4 league record. Last season, the Eagles were picked seventh again, and ended up finishing third overall after a 10-6 run in conference play.

• Eastern is coming off one of its best seasons ever in the Big Sky Conference. With a 10-6 record in 2011-12, EWU took third in the league race - its second-best effort in more than two decades. The only better finish since 1987-88, when the Big Sky started sponsoring women’s sports, came two years prior in 2009-10, when the Eagles won the school’s first-ever regular-season title with a 12-4 league record.

• Over the last three years, Eastern has earned 30 Big Sky Conference wins, which is more than it had in the previous five seasons combined.

• In the past 10 seasons, Eastern Washington women’s basketball players have been honored 88 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 WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for 10 of the past 11 seasons.

• Eastern has advanced to the Big Sky Conference tournament in eight of Schuller’s 11 years as head coach, including the last three in a row. In the most recent 2011-12 season, Schuller led the Eagles to a first-ever sweep of the Montana road trip in school history. The back-to-back wins at Montana (Jan. 26) and Montana State (Jan. 28) were two of Eastern’s six total road wins in the Big Sky season - which tied another school record.

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