Eagles Prepare for Exciting Opportunity in the WNIT Against Familiar In-State Rival
Eastern heads to Seattle looking for first-ever national postseason tournament win and the first in more than 30 years against the Huskies of UW
• WOMEN'S NATIONAL INVITATION TOURNAMENT•
Making its second appearance in the last four years, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team travels to the west side this weekend to participate in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
The Eagles will take on the Washington Huskies in the first round of the WNIT on Friday (March 22) at 7 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Wash.
Eastern, one of 35 schools to receive an at-large bid to the tourney, comes in with a 19-12 overall record, and 14-6 mark from the 2012-13 Big Sky season. EWU currently ranks 93rd in the RPI. After a 68-53 win over Montana State in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Big Sky Conference Tournament, the Eagles lost in overtime to Northern Colorado in the semifinals, which marked the third time in the last four years and sixth time in head coach Wendy Schuller’s 12-year tenure that EWU has had its Big Sky tourney run end in the semis.
Washington was given an automatic bid to the 2013 WNIT, as the top-finishing team out of the Pac-12 Conference that was not selected to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Huskies, with a 20-11 overall record and 11-7 mark in league play, finished fifth this year in the Pac-12 race behind No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 California, No. 3 UCLA and No. 4 Colorado, all of which are teams that earned Top-5 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Washington was also eliminated from its conference tournament in the semifinal round, as it lost to Colorado, 70-59. In the most recent RPI released Monday (March 18), the Huskies ranked 63rd.
“Washington is a really good basketball team,” said Schuller. “They are really well coached, and have one of the top players in the country in Jazmine Davis. This is a team that finished fifth in a BCS conference, and a conference whose No. 1 team is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the No. 2 team is a No. 2 seed and their No. 3 is a No. 3 seed. It is no slouch of a league. We understand how good they are and the level of competition they’ve played all season.”
“But we are really excited about the opportunity,” added Schuller. “We know our football team had an incredible opportunity a couple years ago against them. That game is always in the back of my mind because I was there living and dying by it with the rest of the Eastern fans. For me, I look at this as an opportunity for our institution to play and win against a quality BCS school.”
With a combined 17 Washington natives on the EWU and UW rosters, Eastern is also looking forward to the opportunity to not only play a BCS school, but one with many familiar faces.
“It is exciting for our players because this is actually a familiar opponent, not in it being UW, but because of the individual personnel on each team.” said Schuller. “Quite a few our players have played against Mercedes [Wetmore], Kristi [Kingma], Aminah [Williams], Talia [Walton], Jeneva [Anderson] - all of those are players that Kylie [Huerta] and Carrie [Ojeda] and a lot of our in-state kids have played against throughout their careers, whether it was high school or AAU basketball.”
Also adding to the EWU-UW connections is the mother-daughter duo of EWU freshman Hayley Hodgins and her mother, Karen Hodgins (formerly Murray), who played basketball at the University of Washington from 1981-84. With 1,745 points in her four-year Husky career, Karen remains as the fourth all-time leading scorer in UW history. She became the first female to ever be inducted into the UW Hall of Fame in 1992. Karen was a two-time All-Northern Pacific Athletic Conference selection and still owns the school record for career field goal percentage at 54.1. Her 738 made field goals ranks second in the career record book, while her 416 assists are third and her 230 steals are fourth.
- Eastern Washington and the University of Washington have met 22 times throughout history, but only three times in Schuller’s 12-year tenure with EWU. Washington holds a 21-1 advantage in the all-time series. The only win for EWU came on Feb. 22 1980, when the Eags upset UW on its home floor, 80-68. Here is the complete series history between EWU and UW.
11/27/09 - L (64-46) - Seattle, Wash.
11/21/06 - L (67-59) - Cheney, Wash.
12/12/05 - L (68-57) - Seattle, Wash.
12/9/95 - L (76-40) - Seattle, Wash.
11/28/94 - L (61-41) - Cheney, Wash.
12/31/93 - L (64-42) - Seattle, Wash.
12/11/90 - L (89-56) - Cheney, Wash.
12/15/89 - L (65-54) - Seattle, Wash.
12/29/88 - L (80-51) - Cheney, Wash.
1/14/87 - L (76-55) - Seattle, Wash.
12/9/85 - L (74-62) - Cheney, Wash.
2/6/84 - L (77-68) - Seattle, Wash.
2/28/83 - L (82-75) - Cheney, Wash.
2/13/82 - L (88-69) - Seattle, Wash.**
3/10/81 - L (67-48) - Seattle, Wash.
1/9/81 - L (84-64) - Cheney, Wash.
2/22/80 - W (68-80) - Seattle, Wash.
12/2/78 - L (70-67) - Seattle, Wash.
1/21/78 - L (61-50) - Seattle, Wash.
2/26/77 - L (60-46) - Cheney, Wash.
2/22/75 - L (65-59) - Cheney, Wash.
1/31/75 - L (50-40) - Seattle, Wash.
**NCWSA (AIAW Region IX) Playoff Game
- EWU’s all-time record against Pac-12 schools (since becoming a member of Division I) stands at 6-36. Three of those wins have come in Schuller’s tenure, and all three were against Washington State.
EWU in National Postseason Tournaments
- Since becoming a member of NCAA Division I in 1983-84, EWU has had three national postseason appearances - one NCAA berth in 1987, and two WNIT bids in 2010 and 2013.
- Eastern’s first and only NCAA Tournament appearance came after winning the Mountain West Conference tournament title in 1987 with a 77-74 triumph over Montana in the championship game in Missoula. EWU earned a No. 7-seed in the West Region that year, and was pitted against No. 10 Oregon in the first round. The Ducks knocked off EWU, 75-56.
- EWU earned the automatic bid to the 2010 WNIT by virtue of winning the Big Sky regular-season title. The Eagles ironically met Oregon again in the first round of this national postseason tournament, and the Ducks came away with another 95-66 victory.
- A win this Friday against UW would be the first national postseason tournament victory for EWU as a Division I institution.
- A win Friday would also give the Eagles the coveted 20th win of the 2012-13 campaign. Not only would that be the first 20-win season for head coach Wendy Schuller in her 12-year coaching career at EWU, but it would be the first for the Eastern women’s basketball program since the 1984-85 season. The Eags have come awfully close several different times with 18 wins in 1986-87, 17 in 2002-03 and 19 in the 2009-10 campaign.
Head Coach Wendy Schuller on Playing in the Postseason:
“For our program, it is really humbling and special for us. Coming into this season, I think we had a belief in ourselves, but nobody else believed in us at all. We were picked eighth in the Big Sky, and part of that is because everybody knew how tough the league was going to be with how many seniors were in this conference. I think we were looked upon as being a young team and weren’t given much of a chance. So I was really proud of our program this year, and our team. Our coaching staff worked extremely hard, and our players put in as much time on their own as we’ve ever had a team do. Our chemistry has been outstanding all year. I think we have kids that play hard and have great talent, and I think that talent will just continue to improve. It is a great place that our program is in right now and I think we’ll continue to move forward.”
“The WNIT is an awesome opportunity to experience postseason play. A few years ago for us, it started with just making the conference tournament, getting in there and knowing what that felt like to not be sitting home in the second week of March. But now, I think it is really an expectation for us, and I would love to get to a point where national postseason play is an expectation for our team and our program.”
“I think Kelly [Graves] across town is a great example of doing those things with his program. Five years ago, they [Gonzaga] were just happy to be there, and now, it is an expectation not only to be there but to win games in the postseason. We are trying to follow their lead a little bit and do those same things. We want to go over to Seattle this weekend and play well in this tournament. We want to put up a great showing for ourselves and for our league, and hope that the young kids we have experience this and get a taste of it, and makes them even hungrier for it a year from now.”
- Eastern Washington enters Friday’s contest as one of the top-25 teams in the nation in both free-throw percentage and 3-point field goal percentage. EWU has made 35.5 percent of its shots from beyond the arc this year to rank 21st nationally, while at the charity stripe, the Eags have shot 75.8 percent to rank 22nd in Division I women’s basketball.
- Eastern is also among the top 100 nationally in overall field goal percentage (40.0), 3-point field goals per game (5.8), assists per game (13.9) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.0).
- Eastern had three players named to the All-Big Sky Conference team this year. RS-Sophomore Lexie Nelson was one of six elite players named to the All-Big Sky First Team. Nelson leads EWU in scoring at 14.3 points per game, and ranks 27th in the nation in free-throw percentage at 85.5 (112-131) for the year. Senior Carrie Ojeda was an All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection, and was also named to the Big Sky All-Tournament team. She averages 10.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and has had a total of eight double-doubles this year, including 20 points and 14 boards in EWU’s most recent outing against fellow WNIT participant, Northern Colorado. RS-Freshman Hayley Hodgins was tabbed as the Big Sky Freshman of the Year. The Pasco, Wash., native started 14 of the last 15 games of the year for Eastern. She is the most efficient 3-point shooter on the team, converting 40 percent of her long-range shots in her rookie campaign. In Eastern’s two games in the Big Sky tourney, Hodgins went 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.
- Starting point guard Kylie Huerta, who stands at a mere 5-foot-1, is among the top 25 players in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2). She has tallied 140 assists this season with just 65 turnovers. Huerta has had five or more assists in six of EWU’s last seven games, including a career-high 11 on March 9 against Weber State, and nine in the BSC quarterfinal against Montana State (March 13).
- Interestingly, EWU and UW have posted the exact same scoring average in the 2012-13 season at 64.9 points per game.
- EWU and Washington had three of the same opponents on their 2012-13 schedules in Portland, Idaho and California. Both the Eagles and Huskies defeated UP by double-digits, while both teams lost by 20+ points to the sixth-ranked Bears of Cal. But Washington was able to top Idaho, 62-48, while Eastern lost to the Vandals on a buzzer-beater in Moscow, 68-66.
- Washington has three players who all average more than 13 points per game, including sophomore point guard Jazmine Davis who ranks 26 in the nation with a 19.4 points per game average.
- UW’s 5-11 senior Kristi Kingma is one of the best perimeter shooters in the country, averaging 2.68 3-pointers per game to rank in the top 30. As a team, Washington is 10th in the nation in that category, averaging 8.1 treys per game.
- The Huskies are also among the top 10 in the nation in turnovers, committing just 11.9 per game.
Head Coach Wendy Schuller on Washington:
“For us, it is going to start with Jazmine Davis, and figuring out a way to somewhat corral and contain her because she is a really, really good basketball player. They are also a team that is really well-coached. Kevin McGuff is phenomenal and has won everywhere that he’s been.”
“I know that UW is going to have some athletes inside that we’re going to have to do a great job rebounding against. Our post play is going to have to step up and be solid, which I think we’re very capable of doing. Our guards are also going to have to be sharp defensively, obviously with Jazmine, but also with Mercedes [Wetmore] and [Kristi] Kingma, who are all quality guards that know how to play.”