Eagles Back Home for Pair of Games

Jan. 7, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will get a rare respite from what must seem like a two-month long road trip with a pair of home games this week. Well, that is because the Eagles essentially are in fact in the middle of a two-month stretch with just two home games out of 11 (Dec. 16-Feb. 6).

The Eagles take on defending Big Sky Conference champion Idaho State at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday (Jan. 10) before playing host to Weber State at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 12). The Bengals are 9-4 and 1-0 in Big Sky play after defeating Northern Colorado at home in its league lid-lifter, 86-66. The Wildcats enter the week 6-7 and 0-1 in league play, having dropped a 70-60 home contest to the UNC Bears.

"It will definitely be good to be home," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "Idaho State is a very good team; they have got two of the best players in the league and we know we're going to have our hands full. And Weber State is another very good team; (head coach) Carla (Taylor) does a great job with them. Even though we're at home, we have got two tough opponents in front of us."

The two top players that Idaho State will bring to Cheney on Thursday are Natalie Doma and Andrea Lightfoot. Incredibly, Doma set the Bengal career scoring record last year and enters this week with 1,856 points scored, an average of 18.0 per game which is on pace to set the school record. This year, she is fifth among all NCAA Division I players in points per game (23.2) and second nationally in rebounds per contest (12.7).

Meanwhile, Lightfoot is just behind her teammate in the ISU record book, as the Nebraska transfer has averaged 17.6 points per game and has scored 1,299 times in her three-year Bengal career. She also leads all Division I players in three-point shooting, as she is hitting at a 55.4 percent clip from beyond the arc.

Eastern Washington is looking to right its ship after dropping its first two conference games of the season, losing to Northern Arizona 82-70 on Thursday (Jan. 3) and Sacramento State 73-70 on Saturday (Jan. 5). The Eagles were right in both of the contests, trailing by just two at the half of each before falling.

Idaho State has taken six straight meetings with Eastern, as the Eagles last toppled the Bengals on Jan. 20, 2005, by a 66-52 score in Cheney. Weber State has won three straight match-ups between the teams, although EWU has been victorious in two of the last three contests to take place at Reese Court.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have won four of their last five Big Sky home openers, while this year will mark the fourth time in six seasons Eastern Washington will start its home league slate against Idaho State. The Eagles are determined to ensure that this year's home opener does not have the sour form that it did last year, as the Bengals beat Eastern by a dominating 90-60 score (when the teams met in Pocatello a month later, the Bengals narrowly escaped with an 83-80 win).


Kyla's Blog - Everyone's Reading It!

Freshman guard Kyla Evans has been writing a weekly blog, talking about a variety of things throughout her first season as an NCAA Division I basketball player and as a college student. New blogs are available by Tuesday every week on the women's basketball page at WWW.GOEAGS.COM.

On the court, Evans has shot absolutely lights out from three-point range, as she ranks 10th among all NCAA Division I players in three-point makes per game (3.14) and is 29th in three-point shooting percentage (43.1). She ranks first and sixth among Big Sky Conference players in those respective categories.

Also, Evans is in 12th place in the league and tops on the team in scoring average (12.4). She is the highest-ranked freshman in the conference in that category.

Evans set a school mark in three-point attempts in Eastern's game with Great Falls on Dec. 15, as she made 6-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-21 from the field) to score a then-EWU season-high 22 points.

She would tie her own record for three-point attempts with 14 against San Francisco on Dec. 18.

Against Portland on Dec. 8, she had her second 20-point scoring performance of the year (she also had that many points against Nevada on Nov. 15).

She had an incredible start to her collegiate career, as the freshman nailed eight of her first 10 three-point shots. She made 5-of-7 in the season opener versus Montana Tech on Nov. 11, tied for the second best three-point shooting performance by a Big Sky player so far this year (71.4 percent).


Serbian Sensation

Freshman Tatjana Sparavalo has had some notable performances the last few weeks.

She showed a glimpse of what was to come at the end of the first half of Eastern Washington's 65-53 win over Idaho on Dec. 5. She contributed an old-fashioned three-point play with 14 seconds left and then had a spectacular pass to Julie Piper for a lay-up at the first-half horn to give EWU a 40-34 halftime edge.

In Eastern's 82-74 loss to Pacific on Dec. 21, she was on fire in the second half, nailing 9-of-11 shots in that stanza. She scored all 23 of her points in that stanza, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It is also the most points scored by an Eagle so far in the 2007-08 season.

She has scored at least 12 points in four of her last five games, after tallying just 24 points in her first nine games combined. She is second on the team in that five-game span with 14.4 points per game and 51.8 percent shooting (29-of-56).


Benson Ties Records, Shoots Lights Out

Sydney Benson tied a school record with seven steals in a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. She now shares that mark with five different players (that total was last recorded by Joanna Chadd versus Denver on Jan. 8, 2004). She also had a double-double in that contest, scoring 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Benson has also been on fire the last five games, as she has shot at an incredible 59.6 percent clip in that five-game span (28-of-47), after making just 36.1 percent of her shots up to that point (26-of-72). She also led the team over the last five contests in both points per game (15.6) and rebounds per game (7.8).

The junior is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is fifth in free-throw shooting (80.7 percent), sixth in rebounds per game (7.4), eighth in blocks per game (0.80) and 19th in points per game (10.3).


Looking Back at Christmas Week in Cali

The Eagles started off a two-game road trip to the Golden State by compiling their highest point total in 31 games, but falling short of San Francisco 95-86 on Dec. 18. The 86 points scored were the most by an Eastern team since a 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 9, 2006. Eastern did rally late in the USF contest, however, using a 6-0 run to pull within five points at 84-79 with 2:25 left.

In EWU's game with Pacific on Dec. 21, the Eagles shot a sizzling 61 percent in the second half and rallied from a 70-53 deficit with 4:34 left by utilizing a 14-2 run to trail by just 72-67 with 1:52 remaining.

The 60.6 percent shooting average in the second half (20-of-33) is Eastern's best shooting half since making 62.5 percent of its shots (15-of-24) after the break of a 77-50 win over Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006.

Tatjana Sparavalo was on fire in the second half of that contest, nailing 9-of-11 shots in that stanza. She scored all 23 of her points in that stanza, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It's also the most points scored by an Eagle so far in the 2007-08 season.


Getting Hot Around Final Exams

The Eagles returned to the court after completing finals with a 73-57 win over Great Falls on Dec. 15. That marked Eastern's second win in three games.

In the UGF contest, two Eagles had school-record performances. Sydney Benson topped off a double-double performance (11 points, 10 rebounds) with a record-tying seven steals. Kyla Evans set a school mark in three-point attempts, as she made 6-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-21 from the field) and scored a then-EWU season-high 22 points.

The Eagles were helped by 23 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points in the game. Eastern also rallied from a 28-21 rebound deficit at the half to out-rebound UGF 24-12 in the second stanza.

The week before, the Eagles defeated Idaho 65-53 and lost to Portland 85-58.

Against the Vandals, Eastern's defense led the way. The Eagles not only held Idaho scoreless for a 5:39 span in a 17-0 run but actually did not allow a Vandal field goal to tickle the twine for a 14:15 span. By the time that stretch was over, EWU held a commanding 57-40 lead and cruised to the win from there.

Tatjana Sparavalo helped jump start the Eagles at the end of the first half of that contest. She contributed an old-fashioned three-point play with 14 seconds left and then had a spectacular pass to Julie Piper for a lay-up at the first-half horn to give EWU a 40-34 halftime edge.

In the game with Portland, a team which at 7-3 was off to one of its best starts in school history, the Eagles were burned by their 28 turnovers. Every other aspect of the game was relatively similar between the teams, as each team shot 44 percent from the floor and UP held just a 40-35 advantage in rebounds.

Evans scored 20 points in the contest, which had tied for an Eagle season high at the time.


All-Around Baker

Katy Baker has been an outstanding all-around steady player for the Eagles, as she ranks high on the Big Sky Conference's statistical charts in four different categories.

She is seventh in the league in assists per game (3.33), eighth in steals per game (1.40), ninth in assist-turnover ratio (0.96, 50-to-52) and 13th in free-throw shooting (75.0 percent).

She has also contributed double-digit point totals in 10 different games so far this season.


Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 4.71 per contest, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 60th among NCAA Division I players.

Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.69, 66-to-39) is the fourth-highest in the league and 76th-best nationally.

In Eastern Washington's 66-62 loss to Akron on Nov. 22, she contributed nine assists to the Eagle cause. She also had nine against UC Irvine on Nov. 30. Against Sacramento State on Saturday (Jan. 5), she contributed eight helpers.

Those nine-assist totals are the most posted by an Eastern player since Leah Gonnella had nine versus Montana State on Jan. 26, 2006. Nobody has had more than nine since Michelle Demetruk tallied 11 against Portland State on Jan. 25, 2003.


Scott in the Big Sky Rankings, vs. USF

Nicole Scott is ranked in four different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is fourth in blocks per game (0.93), 11th in rebounds per game (6.4), 14th in field goal percentage (43.4) and 20th in points per game (10.2).

She scored 20 points in EWU's 95-86 loss to San Francisco on Dec. 18, tied for the third-highest point total earned by an Eagle this year and just three off of her career high. She made 7-of-12 baskets in that game, including 3-of-6 from three-point territory. Scott also pulled down six rebounds in that contest.


What Shooting Performances

The Eagles had a pair of outstanding shooting performances in their first two games of the season.

Against Montana Tech in the season-opening contest on Nov. 11, the Eagles shot 50.0 percent from beyond the three-point arc (10-of-20) and 91.7 percent from the free throw line (11-of-12).

Eastern Washington then shot 50.0 percent on three-point shots (4-of-8) against Nevada on Nov. 15. That percentage on three-point attempts had been surpassed just two times in the past three seasons.


Quartet Signs with Eagles

Four players signed letters of intent on Nov. 14 to attend Eastern Washington University and play for the women's basketball squad, head coach Wendy Schuller announced. The signees will begin their Eastern careers in 2008-09 after inking their names on the first day of the NCAA early signing period.

The new players include Pauline Ferrall, a 6-2 post from Carmel (Calif.) High School, Breauna Russell, a 5-6 guard from Washington H.S. in Phoenix, Ariz., Brianne Ryan, a 6-0 guard from Lynden Christian High School in Lynden, Wash., and Meaghan White, a 6-2 forward from Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore.

"Just looking at the credentials of this class is very exciting," Schuller said. "We have added young ladies who are outstanding individuals, exceptional basketball players and winners. I am very pleased with the recruiting efforts of (associate head coach and recruiting coordinator) Tom Webb and our entire staff and team.

"We have assembled a class that will fit in well with our team and has the ability to help take us to the next level. I love the enthusiasm of this group and know they are great additions to our Eastern Washington women's basketball family."


Eagles Picked Seventh

Eastern Washington was picked seventh in both the preseason coaches poll and in the preseason media poll. The polls were nearly identical from the top down:

• 1) Montana
• 2) Idaho State
• 3) Montana State
• 4) Weber State (coaches), Northern Arizona (media)
• 5) Northern Arizona (coaches), Weber State (media)
• 6) Portland State
• 7) Eastern Washington
• 8) Sacramento State
• 9) Northern Colorado


And the Honors Go To ...

Eastern Washington as a team was honored over the summer, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the sixth consecutive season the Eagles had ranked 10th or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.


54s are Wild

With Nov. 7's exhibition game between Eastern Washington and Central Washington wrapping down, the score was tied 54-54 with 54 seconds left. Then Eastern's #54 player Nicole Scott nailed the first-three point shot she had ever made in an Eagle uniform to give the Eagles a 57-54 lead with 35 seconds left that they would not relinquish.

Scott has shown that that make was no fluke, as she has made eight in the regular season.

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