January 8, 2007

Eagles Play Big Sky Home Opener on Thursday

Jan. 8, 2007

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The Eastern Washington Eagles (6-9, 1-1 Big Sky Conference) return to Cheney for their first home contest of the 2006-07 Big Sky Conference season, as the Eagles take on Idaho State (4-8) at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday (Jan. 11). The week's play concludes in the City of Roses on Saturday (Jan. 13), as Eastern will play Portland State (4-11, 0-2 BSC). Tip-off for that game is also set for 7:05 p.m.

The Eagles are coming off a 1-1 trip to the Treasure State. The action last week started in Bozeman, as Eastern earned a nail-biting win over the host Montana State Bobcats, 69-66.

In that game, the Eagles countered a 9-0 MSU run to end the first half with a 12-0 spurt early in the second stanza. After that point, the teams remained close down the wire, but Joanna Chadd erased Montana State's final lead of the game with a big three with 3:59 showing on the clock. That basket gave EWU a 64-62 advantage. Chadd put the game away with a jumper with 21 seconds left, and the victory was secure when MSU's Alyssa Nelson missed a three-point shot at the buzzer.

Phynique Allen also had an outstanding game, as evidenced by her 18 points (second-highest total of her career), six rebounds and four assists.

Two days later, the Eagles ran into the talented Montana Lady Griz, who are receiving votes in both Top 25 polls (the AP and ESPN/USA Today) and, through Sunday's games, were ranked 18th nationally in the collegerpi.com rankings. The game was played in front of 4,123 fans, by far the largest to see an Eagle game this year (the previous high of 1,198 saw Eastern play host to Washington for the first time in 16 years, a 67-59 Husky win). Montana continued its hot season and extended its winning streak to 11 with a dominating 92-55 victory over Eastern.

Thursday's opponent, Idaho State, has yet to play a Big Sky Conference opponent. The Bengals wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule on Saturday with an 85-74 road win over Utah Valley State. That win marked ISU's first one on the road in 2006-07, improving their record in hostile environments to 1-6 (Eastern Washington is 4-3 in home games this season). Idaho State is the reigning Big Sky Conference regular-season champion, as the Bengals went 11-3 in BSC play, 17-13 overall. The Bengals advanced to the WNIT, courtesy of its regular-season crown, where it fell to the eventual WNIT champions, Kansas State, by an 88-68 score.

The Eagles lead the all-time series with ISU, 32-22, but have lost four straight to the Bengals. Last year, the score in Cheney was 74-65, while the scoreboard read, 89-68, in Pocatello. The last Eagle win came, 66-52, in Cheney on Jan. 20, 2005.

The Bengals are led statistically by Natalie Doma (20.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 55.6% field goal shooting), Kaylynn Fager (55.0% 3-point shooting), Andrea Lightfoot (85.5% free throw shooting), Michelle Grohs (0.9 bpg and 1.5 spg) and Jeni Boesel (4.3 apg). Doma recorded the team's highest scoring output of the year when she poured in 35 points in ISU's 85-74 win over Utah Valley State on Saturday.

"We are happy to be playing a conference game at home on Thursday," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "When you play the defending regular-season champions who have the care of their kids back, you better be ready. Idaho State is dangerous. Dolma is a great player, as good a post as there is in our league, and Lightfoot is as good as guard as there is in our league.

"They are going to do a great job, play hard and have a lot of energy, so we have to be able to match that for 40 minutes."

Portland State, like Eastern Washington, started out Big Sky play last week versus Montana and Montana State, and enter this week's action 4-11, 0-2 in Big Sky play. The Vikings play host to a rare Friday night game against Weber State the day before taking on the Eagles.

Last season, PSU went 12-16, 6-8 in Big Sky play, good for a sixth-place finish. That placing earned the Vikings the final Big Sky Tournament spot. Portland State fell to Northern Arizona, 80-68, in the Big Sky quarterfinals.

The Eagles lead the all-time series with the Vikings, 25-13, and have won 11 of the last 14 meetings. PSU took the last meeting, though, by virtue of a 62-56 win in Portland on Feb. 11, 2006, to end a four-game winning streak in the series by Eastern. The Eagles won last year's Cheney meeting, 78-76.

Portland State's statistical leaders are Kelsey Kahle (17.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 44.8% field goal shooting, 78.4% free throw shooting, 1.0 bpg and 2.9 spg), Delaney Conway (41.5% three-point shooting) and Emily Boscacci (3.7 apg).

"Portland State is another team that has the core of its kids back from last year," Schuller said. "They are going to be athletic and are going to be very active defensively. They have got some players in Kahle and (Jenni) Ritter who can do some things on the court.

"All we have to do this week is rebound, play great defense and hopefully shoot better than we did at the University of Montana. If we do those three things, I think we will have a great chance in both of these games."

Bengal Legend Passes Away

Idaho State will be playing its first sporting events on Thursday (Jan. 11) versus Eastern Washington's men's and women's basketball teams (men's in Pocatello, women's in Cheney) since legendary athlete, coach and administrator Milton "Dubby" Holt passed away on Sunday at the age of 92 of natural causes.

The former Idaho State athletics director is who Holt Arena, ISU's indoor intercollegiate athletics arena, is named after. The facility was just the second domed athletic stadium created, following the Houston Astrodome.

Let's Party Like It's 19 ... I Mean 2006!

Last week, Eastern Washington completed an impressive win over the visiting Portland Pilots, 84-66. The game was just the fourth in history for Eastern on New Year's Eve, as EWU improved to 3-1 in games played on this date. The previous games on that particular date came in 2003 (a 72-69 win over Gonzaga at Spokane Arena), 2000 (an 81-58 home victory over Colgate) and 1993 (a 64-42 loss at Washington).

The game saw a number of impressive individual performances for the Eagles. Phynique Allen set Eagle season and personal career highs in both assists (8) and steals (5). Joanna Chadd tallied 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting (5-of-8 on three-point attempts) to mark the sixth time so far this season she has hit or surpassed the 20-point mark. Brittney Osborn set a career high in points with 20 versus the Pilots.

Eastern took control of the game right from the opening tip, taking commanding 14-0 and 21-2 leads. The Pilots would not drain its second field goal of the game until 10:28 had elapsed off the clock.

Northwestern State Goes Down

The Eagles ended a six-game losing streak on Dec. 15, earning a 71-67 victory over Northwestern State. Phynique Allen got EWU's scoring going by tallying the first 11 Eagle points of the night. She would finish with 16 tallies, the second-highest point total of her career.

Brittney Osborn led the Eagles in scoring by tallying 17 points, marking the first time this season she has led the team in scoring.

"Brit did a great job coming off the bench and bringing in a great deal of energy," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "It's like having another starter on your bench. She has bought into the role of being the best sixth man in our league. You need to have those kinds of players on your team and to have that positive attitude to embrace the role."

Sydney Benson also had an impressive night, recording her second double-double of the season, contributing 14 points and leading all players with 13 rebounds.

Eastern would lead by as many as 12 before Northwestern State rallied late to tie the game at 61 with 3:34 left. At that point, Eastern Washington showed its resolve, scoring the next six points to pull away and put the game out of reach.

"I'm glad we got that monkey off of our back," Schuller said. "Northwestern State is a good athletic team and they play very hard, so it was a good win for us."

Eastern Washington Welcomes Southern Teams

Northwestern State (located in Natchitoches, La.) and Davidson (located in Davidson, N.C.) became the first two schools from the South to ever visit Cheney to play the Eagles, taking on Eastern in a four-day span in mid-December.

The closest school geographically to the South to ever play on the Eastern Washington campus was Texas-Pan American, who fell to Eastern, 59-45, on Dec. 6, 2002.

Eastern defeated Northwestern State on Dec. 15 by a 71-67 score to snap a six-game losing streak before falling to Davidson, 67-58, three days later.

Spokane-Area Rivalry: 103-102!

Eastern Washington and Gonzaga played a run-and-gun contest on Dec. 9, before the visiting Bulldogs pulled out a razor-thin 103-102 overtime victory over the Eagles.

Neither team had previously played in a game where both squads scored 100 or more points.

The last time that Eastern Washington reached 100 points in any game came 19 years ago, in a 105-79 win at Portland State on Dec. 11, 1987.

In the 35 contests played between the teams, never before had even one team scored 100 or more points. The overtime contest was the first in the all-time series, as well.

Free Throws Are Falling From the Sky

The Eagles broke their school record for free throws made in their dramatic 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 9, shooting 36-of-46 from the charity stripe.

The previous record of 35 made was set on Feb. 5, 2004, in an 80-75 Eagle win over Montana State. The school record of 48 attempts was also set in that contest.

The 36 made versus GU is also the fourth-highest total in Big Sky Conference history.

UW Visits For First Time in 16 Years

The Washington Huskies paid its initial visit to Cheney in 16 years on Nov. 21 and narrowly left town with a win.

The Huskies took control the majority of the game, taking as high as a 15-point lead, but the Eagles would quickly respond with a 17-4 run to tie the contest at 42-all with 11:29 remaining. The teams remained close down the stretch before Washington claimed its 67-59 win. The Eagles trailed by just two with 5:08 left and four with 1:49 remaining.

What a Start!

The Eagles started the season with a 3-0 record for the first time in 22 years by sandwiching a pair of home victories over Montana Tech and Corban College with an impressive 20-point road win over UC Irvine.

Versus the Montana Tech Orediggers, Eastern used 12-2, 14-2 and 7-0 runs to claim the 75-69 victory. The final spurt came with the score tied at 67 just two minutes from the final buzzer.

A 22-5 run early in the second half versus UC Irvine allowed the Eagles to pull away from the Anteaters in their 80-60 victory.

Versus Corban College, Eastern Washington used a commanding 30-9 run to put separation between the two teams and won, 96-57.

Eagles Third in Big Sky Attendance

Eastern Washington has seen a high number of people attend games so far this season, as evidenced by its average attendance of 801, which places the Eagles third among Big Sky Conference teams.

The two Montana schools pace the league, as Montana has drawn 3,546 per contest and Montana State is averaging 1,202. Following the Eagles, two schools average from 600-700 per game and the remaining quartet average between 196-500 per contest.

Roster Breakdown - Hometowns

Eastern Washington's roster, as always, has a strong Washington flair to it, as nine of the 14 players reside in the Evergreen State. Four of those are from cities located east of the Cascades: Katy Baker (Spokane), Anny Eller (Kennewick), Leah Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each is from California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.

Success in the Big Sky

The past two seasons, the Eagles have compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference seasons for the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns. In 2004-05, the Eagles went 8-6 in Big Sky play, 16-12 overall. The following season, EWU's record was 7-7 in conference action, 13-15 overall.

EWU enters the 2006-07 campaign having qualified for the six-team Big Sky Conference Tournament in each of head coach Wendy Schuller's five years at the helm of the Eagles. Overall, Eastern has participated in seven consecutive tournaments after playing in just three the first 11 years the BSC sponsored women's sports.

Big Sky Conference Poll

The Eagles were selected fifth (tied with Portland State) in the Big Sky Conference's media poll, while EWU placed sixth in the coaches poll. The favorite chosen by the media was defending tournament champion Northern Arizona, while the coaches were not able to differentiate between defending regular-season champ Idaho State and Montana, as the two teams tied for their top spot.

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 fourth consecutive season the Eagles had ranked third or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.

Audio/Video Coverage

All of the 2006-07 women's basketball home games will be audio broadcast free of charge, along with road contests against Idaho, Washington State and Portland State. Announcing the contests are Alyssa Chambers and Brandon Hansen. For more information, access www.teamline.cc

All games played either at Reese Court or on the road in Big Sky Conference play will be available to view on the Internet at www.bigskytv.org. The cost is $59.95 for a 2006-07 season pass for EWU games (which also includes men's basketball contests and archived football and volleyball games) and $99.95 for all Big Sky teams. Single games can be viewed for $6.95.

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