Back at Home, Eagles Look to Get Back on Track in First-Ever Meeting with North Dakota
Eastern prepares for busy week of Big Sky action with three games in six days, starting with league newcomer
Eastern at Portland State
Monday, Jan. 21 | 7:30 p.m. PST
Peter W. Stott Center | Portland, Ore.
The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team won its first three Big Sky games of the year, but has been on the losing end in its last three. This week, the Eagles will return to Reese Court, where they aim to start a new streak.
Eastern will take on Big Sky newcomer North Dakota on Thursday (Jan. 17) in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. and can be watched live via webcast www.bigskytv.org, with commentary from the official voice of EWU women’s basketball, Greg Talbott.
The Eags will then face Northern Colorado on Saturday (Jan. 19) at 2:05 p.m. in Cheney, before heading to Portland on Monday (Jan. 21) for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day tangle with the Vikings of Portland State.
“We are coming off a very difficult road trip, so I know everyone in the locker room wants to do everything in their power to get us back on the winning track,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “We are just trying to learn and get better with every experience and every game, and I think we learned a lot last weekend. It’s all about us getting our act together and communicating on the floor. But if we put it out there the way I know we can, I feel we have a good chance on Thursday, on Saturday and on Monday.”
North Dakota and Eastern share the same overall record at 7-8. The Eagles are 3-3 in league play for a sixth-place ranking, while UND currently sits in 10th with a 2-4 record. Like EWU, North Dakota was able to take down defending Big Sky champion and preseason favorite, Idaho State, as well as Weber State. But UND has lost its other four to Southern Utah, Northern Colorado, and most recently, the Montanas. In those four losses, UND has averaged just 47.5 points.
North Dakota does not rank among the top five in the league in any statistical category, except blocked shots and 3-point field goal percentage defense, which against Eastern, may be prove advantageous. In terms of efficiency, the Eagles are the best 3-point shooting team in the league at 39.3 percent in Big Sky play. Eastern averages nearly six threes per game.
UND has only one player averaging double digits, but there are three other players averaging 7.5 or more. Junior forward Madi Buck and junior center Emily Evers pose the biggest threats, combining for nearly 20 points per game on 45 percent shooting.
In 2011-12, as a member of the Great West Conference, North Dakota won both the regular-season and conference tournament titles. UND returned three starters and seven other letterwinners from that squad that finished 21-11 overall. Along with competing in a new conference this year, UND welcomed a new coach for the 2012-13 season in J. Travis Brewster - a first-year head coach at the collegiate level.
Eagle News & Notes
WATCH FOR 150: For the fourth time this season, EWU head coach Wendy Schuller will be going for win No. 150 at Eastern. Schuller is 149-188 in her 12 years as a head coach.
SHOOTING WOES: Statistically, Eastern ranks higher than UND in most categories, but the Eagles have not shot the ball particularly well since the calendar turned to 2013. In its last five games, the Eagles have shot 36.4 percent from the field and just 33 percent from 3-point. In its previous five games, the team was shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. EWU was also leading its opponents in assists, 94-71, but in the last five games, the Eagles have trailed in that category, 84-70.
WILLIAMS' CAREER WEEKEND UNFORTUNATELY ENDS WITH
INJURY: Sophomore forward Melissa Williams had the
best weekend of her Eagle career in Eastern's most recent outings
at Northern Arizona (Jan. 10) and Sacramento State (Jan. 12). She
posted back-to-back double-doubles, averaging 11.5 points (nearly
triple her season average) and 11.0 rebounds, while also leading
the team in assists with seven. Against the Lumberjacks, Williams
had a career high in both points and rebounds, as she finished with
13 tallies on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from the
free throw line, and grabbed 11 boards. She also had four assists,
one block and one steal. Two days later against the Hornets, she
had 10 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with three assists and
two steals. But her stellar weekend came to a premature end when
she went down with a knee injury in the final six minutes of the
Sac State game. Williams did not return, and is currently
undergoing further evaluation.
HODGINS TURNS IT ON: Williams was not the only Eagle to celebrate a career weekend on the road. Although the team came away with two losses, redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins had the best two games of her young career at NAU and Sac State. She led the Eagles in Flagstaff with a career-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor with two 3-pointers, while adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Against the Hornets, she had 10 points and a career-high four steals.
DIALED IN FROM DOWNTOWN: Halfway through the entire 2012-13 season, and six games into its Big Sky slate, Eastern Washington has proved to be one of the most offensively efficient teams in the league. The Eagles are first in the Big Sky in 3-point field goal percentage (34.3), third in free throw percentage (71.0) and four in overall field goal percentage (39.5). Eastern averages 5.5 3-point field goals per game, which is second only to Sacramento State. Eastern’s most dangerous threats on the perimeter are junior guard Aubrey Ashenfelter and sophomore guard Lexie Nelson, who currently rank among the top 12 in both 3-point field goals made and 3-point field goal percentage. Ashenfelter has made 20 treys this year on 42.6 percent shooting - the fourth-best in the Big Sky - while Nelson has knocked down 28 on 37.3 percent, which ranks eighth.
VALUE OF VERSATILITY...ON OFFENSE: Eastern has had seven different players lead the team in scoring this year. Sophomore Lexie Nelson leads the way with seven team-high performances, while Carrie Ojeda, Aubrey Ashenfelter, Chenise Pakootas, Laura Hughes, Kylie Huerta and Hayley Hodgins have all led in points at least once. Eastern has had at least three different players score in double-figures in six of the last eight games for a 5-3 record.
VALUE OF VERSATILITY...ON DEFENSE: Eastern also shares the wealth defensively, in both rebounding and steals. Seven different players have led in those categories 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 this year.
IMPORTANCE OF AN EARLY LEAD: Eastern is 7-2 this year when leading or tied at the half, and conversely, 0-5 when trailing at intermission. In fact, in four of those seven wins this year, EWU has earned a double-digit lead after the first 20 minutes.
REGARDING ASSIST/TURNOVER RATIO: Similar to the record discrepancy in regards to halftime scores, EWU is 4-0 this year when committing less turnovers than its opponent, and is 5-1 when tallying more assists. In games that Eastern has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.8 or higher, the Eagles are 6-2. When the assist-to-turnover ratio is below 0.8, the team is 1-6.
60 OR LESS LENDS SUCCESS: In the 2012-13 campaign, Eastern has earned a 5-0 record when holding teams to under 60 points. The Eagles are 2-8 when their opponents score 60 or more, and 0-4 when teams reach 70. After enjoying a five-game winning streak in which they held their opponents to an average of 56.2 points per game, Eastern has lost its last three contests. And in all three, the opponent has scored at least 73, while NAU and Sac State put 80+ in the team's two most recent losses.
AIMING FOR A DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Senior Carrie Ojeda had a goal at the beginning of the season to average a double-double in her final year in red and white. The senior center has already had four double-doubles this year - the third most in the Big Sky - and that includes a 13-point, 10-rebound performance in EWU's recent contest against current Big Sky leader Montana State. At this point in the season, she is just shy of her goal, averaging 9.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.
NOT ONE FOR THE NAIL-BITER: So far, 11 of Eastern’s 15 games this year have been decided by 10 or more points. The Eagles have won four and lost five of those double-digit games. Eastern has not played in an overtime game in nearly two years - the last one being a 76-73 loss to Idaho State on Feb. 5, 2011.
TOUGH SLATE During the non-conference season, in which Eastern went 4-5, the team played two opponents (Cal, Gonzaga) who were either ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today Sports Coaches Top 25 Poll. EWU opened the year against Pacific and Cal State Northridge - the two teams picked to finish at the top of the Big West Conference this year, and who both have a .600 or better winning percentage at this point in the year. On its 2012-13 schedule, the Eagles have a total of seven opponents that participated in national tournaments a year ago.
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.
WHAT WENDY HAS DONE...
• 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. Behind Montana's Robin Selvig, who has been with the program for a whopping 35 years, Schuller is the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Sky in terms of years coaching in the conference. And the most successful years of those 12 has been the three most recent. In the last three seasons, Eastern has earned 30 Big Sky Conference wins, which is more than it had in the previous five seasons combined.
• Her 2009-10 squad captured the school's first-ever Big Sky regular-season title, and hosted the league tournament for the first time in school history. Schuller was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year after leading the squad to a 12-4 mark in the conference and 19-12 overall, which were the best records posted by an Eagle squad since the 1984-85 season when Eastern was still a member of the Mountain West Conference. That year, the Eagles advanced to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, marking the school’s first national postseason appearance since the 1987 season.
• It should also be noted that in 2009-10 - the year EWU won the Big Sky regular-season title - the Eagles were picked seventh in the preseason coaches' poll. Last year in 2011-12, the Eagles were again picked seventh, and ended up finishing third. And right now, Schuller's 2012-13 team, which was picked eighth in the preseason poll, is currently atop the Big Sky standings with a perfect 3-0 record.
• Schuller has had 13 different players named to one or more All-Big Sky Conference teams, including two league MVPs in Julie Piper (2010) and Brianne Ryan (2012), as well as the school’s first Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Julie Page, who competed in the 2012 London Olympics as a captain for the Great Britain national team.
• 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, and in 2003-04, the Eagles led the nation with a 3.63 grade point average.
• In the 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. Schuller's teams have in fact won two years in a row at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., which is a milestone in itself considering the Eagles as a program have only recorded four wins there throughout history. Former head coach Bill Smithpeters also won twice in Missoula - once in 1980, and again in 1987 when EWU upset Montana in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
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.
ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL...
Eastern Washington University head women’s basketball coach Wendy Schuller announced the signing of four high-school standouts to national letters of intent during the early signing period. Eastern’s 2013 recruiting class includes Spokane native Jade Redmon, 5-9 guard Bethany Montgomery out of Tacoma, Wash., 6-0 forward Haley Shaner from Sacramento, Calif., and 6-3 center Marly Anderson of Hillsboro, Ore., who ranks among the top 60 nationally for her position, according to Hoopgurlz.com.
Jade Redmon is a standout for Mead High School. She was a 2012 All-Greater Spokane League First-Team selection, averaging a team-leading 14.6 points per game during her junior campaign. A dual-sport athlete, Redmon also excelled as a member of the girls soccer team, earning All-GSL honorable mention accolades as a defender in 2011. Recently, she helped lead the Panthers to an Elite Eight berth in the 2012 4A State Soccer Championships. Outside of her high school career, Redmon plays for the eminent Northwest Blazers AAU team, under coach Steve Klees. In 2012, her Northwest Blazers Orange team earned a 43-2 record. The club team captured the End of Trail Music City Madness Tournament title in Nashville, Tenn., where Redmon was selected to the all-tournament team. The Orange also won the elite division championship at the MSNM Tournament in San Diego, Calif. Redmon comes from a family of successful collegiate athletes. Her older sister, Jazmine, is a junior point guard with the nationally-acclaimed Gonzaga women’s basketball team, while mother, Shaney, was a track and field athlete at Washington State University. Coincidentally, Shaney was coached at WSU by Eastern’s current head track and field coach, Marcia Mecklenburg.
Bethany Montgomery comes to Eastern from Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash. Montgomery is a three-time All-Narrows League selection, earning first-team honors as a freshman and junior, and second-team accolades as a sophomore. She was a Tacoma News Tribune All-Area second-team selection in 2012 and earned All-Area Honorable Mention from the Seattle Times that same year. As a junior, she averaged 13.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals for WHS. Montgomery led the Rams to a Narrows League title in 2012 with a perfect 10-0 record. Her team went on to finish second in the West Central District that year with a 20-4 overall mark. Montgomery is also a Narrows League high jump champion, and was named to the Seattle Times track and field All-Area honorable mention team in 2012. Montgomery has earned the WIAA Distinguished Scholastic Award for three-consecutive years and was a finalist for Tacoma Athlete of the Year in 2010.
Haley Shaner, a 6-0 forward out of West Campus High School in Sacramento, Calif., is the reigning two-time Golden Empire League MVP, and was a 2012 Sacramento Bee All-Metro second-team selection. Averaging 16.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and just over two assists, steals and blocks per game in 2012, Shaner led her team a runner-up finish in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships. The Warriors reached the section title game for the first time in school history after a 50-47 upset of rival Colfax in the semifinals, which marked West Campus’ 19th-consecutive win of the 2011-12 season. Shaner registered a game-high 14 points and nine rebounds in the historic win. She also led her team to two-consecutive Golden Empire League titles, including a perfect 10-0 run in 2012.
Marly Anderson is rated as the No. 55 recruit in the nation for her position, according to Hoopgurlz.com. She is a three-year starter for the Glencoe Crimson Tide in Hillsboro, Ore., and also plays for one of the top club teams in the nation - Team Concept. Anderson is a three-time All-Pacific Conference selection, which includes first-team honors in 2012. As a junior, she averaged 12.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game to help lead her team to a 6A-4 Pacific Conference regular-season title. Behind a 21-point, 12-rebound performance from Anderson in the opening round, the Crimson Tide advanced to the Elite Eight of the Class 6A Oregon State Championships in 2012. With Team Concept, Anderson played alongside 6-5 post Mercedes Russell - the nation’s top-rated recruit for 2013. The five-star recruit and Oregon Class 5A Player of the Year signed with Tennessee on Wednesday (Nov. 14).
Fast Look at the [Probable] Starting Five
#13 | LEXIE NELSON (GUARD)
• Her first official year in red and white, Nelson is the
leading scorer on the team, while ranking third overall in the Big
Sky with an average of 14.6 points per game. She has had two games
this year with 20+ points, and has hit three 3-pointers in six
different outings, and has made at least two in four of six Big Sky
• Nelson fulfills a couple of roles for EWU throughout the course of a game. She has started all 15 contests this year at point guard, but will often swing to a shooting guard midway through the first half, when sophomore Kylie Huerta comes in to run the point.
• Shooting 84 percent from the free throw line this season, Nelson is among the top three players in the league in that category, while ranking in the top 70 nationally. She has earned at least 20 more trips to the free throw line than any other player on the team, and has only missed 11 of her 66 total attempts.
• Nelson is a transfer from conference-rival Montana. A 2010 graduate of Butte (Mont.) HS and the 2010 Montana Gatorade Player of the Year, Nelson started her collegiate career as a true freshman with the Lady Griz in 2010-11. She started six of Montana’s first nine games that year and played in 32 of 33 total. She finished the season with 31 assists and a scoring average of 3.3. Following her rookie year, Nelson opted to bring her talents to Cheney. She sat out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
#21 | CARRIE OJEDA (CENTER)
• Eastern's recent contest against Montana (Jan. 3) marked
the 100th appearance for Ojeda in her Eagle career. She has started
68 of 103 total games played for a total of 1,827 minutes.
• Averaging a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game, Ojeda ranks among the top five in the Big Sky in that category. She posted a career-high 17 boards in the season debut against Pacific (Nov. 11), and had 11 against Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 24) and Boise State (Dec. 7). She has had at least five boards in 11 of 14 games this year.
• Ojeda recorded her 100th-career block earlier this season, and now has a total of 106 in her tenure. She ranks sixth in the EWU all-time career record book in that category, and is third among all active players in the Big Sky. Ojeda says shot blocking is by far her favorite part of the game.
• Including four already this season - which is the third-most among all players in the Big Sky - Ojeda has posted 10 double-doubles throughout her career.
#30 | CHENISE PAKOOTAS (GUARD)
• Pakootas has had at least one steal in 10 of 15 games
this year, and has posted a career-high four steals on four
different occasions. She is leading the Eagles in that statistical
category, averaging 1.8 per game, which also ranks among the top 12
in the Big Sky.
• After averaging 13.6 minutes as a sophomore off the bench, Pakootas has nearly doubled her playing time this season, averaging 25.3 minutes as a starter.
• 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 just over one 3-pointer per game, but drained a career-high four earlier this year against nationally-ranked California (Nov. 23). She has had one trey in every league game this season.
#32 | AUBREY ASHENFELTER (GUARD)
• A true utility player for the Eagles, Ashenfelter has had
least five points, three assists and four rebounds in six of the
last eight games. She has scored in double figures five times this
season, and earned her first-career double-double earlier in the
year against Portland (Nov. 18), with 11 points and 10
• Currently, Ashenfelter is among the top three most efficient 3-point shooters in the Big Sky at 42.6 percent. Last year as a sophomore, she was making just 29.7 percent of her shots from long range. Ashenfelter has had at least one triple in 12 of 15 games this year.
• With 1,607 minutes logged 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 the coaches have asked her responsibilities to change this year, from a role player to a more aggressive, consistent scorer.
• Ashenfelter is a two-time Big Sky All-Academic honoree.
#42 | MELISSA WILLIAMS (FORWARD)
• Williams had back-to-back double-doubles in Eastern's
most recent outings at Northern Arizona (Jan. 10) and Sac State
(Jan. 12), including a career-high 13 points and 11 rebounds
against the Lumberjacks. She has now had five double-digit
rebounding efforts this season, and is currently among the top 12
in the league in that category, averaging 6.5 per game.
• 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.
First Off the Bench
#4 | KYLIE HUERTA (POINT GUARD)
• After scoring a combined 17 points through the first
seven games of the year, Huerta has put up 60 tallies in the last
eight games combined, including a game-high and career-high 15
against defending Big Sky Champion, Idaho State (Dec. 22). Since
the start of conference play, Huerta has nearly double her scoring
average from 5.1 in the non-conference season to 9.0 in league. She
also had just 12 assists through the first seven games of the year,
but has dished out 36 since. She leads the Eagles with 41 total
assists on the year.
• Huerta is a 2011 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., which is the same school that produced Gonzaga legend and current WNBA star Courtney Vandersloot, as well as Nebraska four-year starter Lindsey Moore, who is a 2013 preseason Wade List and Naismith Trophy candidate…Huerta was the direct successor of these two nationally-acclaimed point guards…Kentwood is also the alma-mater of EWU men’s basketball great, Rodney Stuckey.
#25 | HAYLEY HODGINS (GUARD)
• Hodgins had a breakout weekend in Eastern's most recent
trip to NAU and Sac State. She led the Eagles with 16 points
against the Lumberjacks, and had 10 tallies two days later in
Sacramento. She hit two 3-pointers in both games, and had a total
of five rebounds and six steals on the weekend.
• Coming off her redshirt-freshman year, Hodgins has played in 14 of 15 games for EWU, averaging 13.4 minutes, 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.
• A 2011 graduate of Chiawana High School in Pasco, Wash., Hodgins was a two-time Columbia Basin Big Nine Cascade Division First-Team selection and was honored on the Seattle Time All-State Second Team.
#54 | LAURA HUGHES (CENTER)
• After starting the first two games of the year for
Eastern, Hughes has come off the bench in the last 13 for an
average of 17.3 minutes per game.
• The 6-2 junior center is currently the fourth-leading scorer on the team, averaging 7.5 points per game. She has scored in double figures in six outings this year, including a career-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting in a narrow loss to Idaho on Nov. 27. She led the team with 18 points in its conference debut on Dec. 20 against Weber State, and currently ranks among the top 10 in the Big Sky in field goal percentage at 45.3 percent on the season.