Eagles Gear Up for Two Games in the Bay Area Following Thanksgiving
Eastern to face nationally-ranked California in first round of the Cal Classic by Doubletree
CAL CLASSIC BY DOUBLTREE
Eastern vs. Cal State Fullerton/Georgetown
Saturday, Nov. 24 | TBA
Haas Pavilion Berkeley, Calif.
The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team will spend its Thanksgiving holiday in the Bay Area for the Cal Classic by Doubletree in Berkeley, Calif. The Eagles open tournament play on Friday (Nov. 23) against host-California - a team currently ranked 11th in the nation.
Based on the outcome of that game, Eastern will play again on Saturday (Nov. 24) in either a consolation game at 1 p.m. or the championship game at 3:15. Other teams competing in the Cal Classic that Eastern could potentially face include Georgetown and Cal State Fullerton.
Fullerton would be the third school out of the Big West Conference that EWU has faced this season. Eastern’s first two games of the year were against Pacific and Cal State Northridge - the two teams picked second and first in the 2012-13 Big West preseason poll.
After dropping both of those contests to the BWC schools, Eastern recently celebrated its first win of the year against Portland out of the West Coast Conference. Led by 23 points from sophomore Lexie Nelson, three different Eagles scored in double figures, while the Eagles as a team out-rebounded the Pilots, 36-28, and forced 20 turnovers.
“One of the things I really like about our team right now is its willingness and eagerness to learn and get better,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “When we walked away from our games last week against Pacific and Northridge, we took into consideration a lot of things in terms of offensive execution. We looked at the skills we were using, our shot selection, what plays we were running and who we were running them for, and we learned from it. There is still a lot that can be fixed, but it was improvement. I was pleased to see that.”
While Eastern continues to strive for improvement in the early season, its next opponent will certainly put that hard work to the test.
No. 11 Cal comes in at a perfect 3-0 in the 2012-13 campaign, but more impressive than the actual record, is the margin of victory in those games. The Golden Bears are beating opponents by an average of 35.3 points per game. California is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, while holding the opposition to 33.3 percent.
“They [Cal] have everything,” said Schuller. “They have size, athleticism and some great guards. We know we will have our hands full, but like I’ve said before, this is a game that is going to make us better and get us prepared for the rigors of Big Sky play.”
Other Game Notes
*Eastern and Cal have met three times throughout history, including one matchup during Schuller’s tenure. EWU lost to the Golden Bears in Berkeley in 2005 by a score of 64-45. The two teams met on neutral ground in 1982 and again in 1984 - a game that ended in a 96-72 victory for EWU.
*Eastern leads the all-time series with Cal State Fullerton, 4-2. The most recent matchup on Nov. 11, 2010 in Cheney was a high-scoring affair that saw the Eagles prevail, 80-70. In 2009, the two teams met in Fullerton, where the Titans managed to escape with a narrow 58-55 win. EWU had won the previous three matchups after holding Fullerton to less than 60 points in each game.
*Eastern and Georgetown have never met throughout history. The Eagles are 0-5 all-time against schools from the Big East Conference.
*Eastern has played in a Thanksgiving weekend tournament in each of Schuller’s 11 years at the helm. The Eagles are 8-14 in those tourneys. EWU has never won both games, but has split with one win and one loss in seven of the last 11 years.
Eagle News & Notes
- After shooting 5-for-17 in the first two games of the year, 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). 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.
- Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter had an impressive stat line in Eastern’s most recent game 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 a block. Ashenfelter was 5-of-8 against UP, after going just 4-of-17 in the first two outings of 2012-13.
- Senior Carrie Ojeda hauled in a career-high 17 rebounds in the 2012-13 season debut against Pacific. 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).
- Eastern finally found some offense in its most recent outing against Portland, shooting 45 perccent from the floor. In its first two games, Eastern had converted just 30.1 percent of its shots.
- While the Eagles have forced an impressive 47 turnovers in three games this season, the Eagles have committed 59 of their own. But the points earned off those turnovers for EWU versus the opponent are nearly even at 46 and 48, respectively.
- Eastern has not yet played in a game decided by single digits. Eastern lost the first game of the year by 13, dropped the second one by 22, and then turned around and earned its first win by a 18-point margin.
- Although Eastern has struggled a bit putting points on the board this year, EWU has held all three of its opponents so far to under 70 points. EWU’s scoring defense average of 60.0 ppg currently ranks fifth out of 11 in the Big Sky.
- 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 Player of the Year for Montana in 2010, while freshman Tisha Phillips earned the honor for Idaho in 2012. Phillips is a 2012 graduate of Lewiston High School. 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 Lewiston Bengals.
Preseason Talking Points
- Eastern won their lone exhibition game on Nov. 4 against the NAIA’s Carroll College. EWU outscored 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.