Jan. 13, 2009
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team continues its impressive turnaround season with four straight home games, the first of which is Thursday (Jan. 15) at 7:05 p.m. versus Northern Colorado.
The Eagles are fresh off an 82-68 road win over Weber State, which snapped a 22-game losing streak Eastern had to the Wildcats in Ogden, Utah, dating to Feb. 13, 1988 (a 71-68 EWU victory). It also ended a nine-game Big Sky Conference road losing streak.
"We had a disappointing performance on Thursday against Idaho State (a 71-54 loss), but I was really pleased with how well the team refocused and got themselves ready to play Weber on Saturday," head coach Wendy Schuller said.
"We played really well on Saturday, did a nice job taking the extra pass and moving the ball quickly. We had a lot of unselfish play and really attacked the offensive glass, as well."
The margin of victory was also the most for the Eagles in a league road game since a 77-46 win over Portland State on Jan. 15, 2005 (biggest in any game since an 80-60 win at UC Irvine on Nov. 13, 2006).
Eastern (8-9) enters this week's play in third place in the league standings with a 3-1 record, trailing just Portland State (4-0) and Montana (3-0). The Eagles have doubled their overall win total from last year (4-25) and tripled their Big Sky win total (1-15).
Its Thursday opponent, Northern Colorado, is coming off a 77-74 road loss to Columbia on Sunday (Jan. 11). The Bears are 1-1 in Big Sky play and 7-8 overall. The Eagles and Northern Colorado have just met four times in history; the Bears lead the series 3-1 with Eastern's win coming at home, 68-47, on March 1, 2007.
"Northern Colorado is off to a nice start this year and is a good basketball team," Schuller said. "They have some players who can really shoot the ball, and we know they are going to come here and play extremely hard."
Being Aggressive on the Boards
The Eastern Washington Eagles have shown themselves to be an aggressive team this year, evidenced partly by the team's impressive rebounding numbers.
The Eagles lead the Big Sky Conference in rebounding margin (+2.3), ranking second in rebounds attained (38.9 per game) and first in least rebounds allowed (36.6). The team also leads all league school in offensive rebounds per contest (14.88).
Eastern has tallied at least 10 offensive rebounds in its last eight games and in 14-of-17 games played this year.
Win on the Road? No Problem
On Saturday (Jan. 10), the Eagles used an 18-3 run in the first half to grab a 26-19 lead two minutes before halftime and cruised from there to a comfortable 82-68 road win over Weber State.
The win snapped a 22-game road losing streak the Eagles had against the Wildcats. It was also the largest margin of victory for EWU in any Big Sky Conference road game since the Eagles won at Portland State, 77-46, on Jan. 15, 2005. It was also the team's biggest win on the road in any contest since an 80-60 victory at UC Irvine on Nov. 13, 2006.
Earlier in the season, the Eagles earned an impressive 70-69 overtime victory over UNLV in the semifinals of the Lady Rebel Round-Up on Nov. 28.
That victory snapped a 14-game losing streak for Eastern in road contests (16 in games played away from home, including two neutral-site contests last year).
The last win away from home prior to that contest came on Feb. 24, 2007, when the team claimed a 66-63 road victory over Sacramento State.
The victory was Eastern's first-ever over UNLV in four tries as well as its initial one over a team in the Mountain West Conference since a 53-30 victory versus Wyoming on Jan. 10, 2004.
Halftime Deficit? No Problem
Eastern Washington earned its first win of the 2008-09 season on Nov. 21 by an 80-70 score over San Francisco, rallying from behind to do so.
In earning the victory, the Eagles rallied from a 38-33 deficit at the half, marking their first win after trailing at the break since Feb. 24, 2007. In that earlier contest, EWU trailed Sacramento State 29-27 at the half before prevailing by a 66-63 score.
The Eagles then made it twice after the team responded to a 34-33 deficit to Montana Tech on Dec. 2 by outscoring the Orediggers 40-29 after the break in a 73-63 win.
A third occurrence came in Eastern's first Big Sky Conference game of the season on Jan. 4, when the team rallied from a 34-31 halftime deficit to defeat Northern Arizona 70-64 in overtime.
One of Best Turnarounds in Country
The Eagles are in the midst of one of the best turnaround seasons in the NCAA Division I ranks this year with its 8-9 overall record and 3-1 Big Sky Conference record.
The Eagles have doubled their win total from last year's squad (4-25), one of just six teams nationally to do so. Additionally, EWU has tripled its Big Sky win total from a year ago (1-15).
Eastern is one of just five teams nationally to have already recorded four more wins than its counterpart did a year ago. A complete list may be found on page 6 of the corresponding PDF.
Nailing Shots All Over the Court
The Eagles have had some impressive shooting performances this year.
Most recently, the team shot at an outstanding 56.3 percent clip (27-of-48) on Saturday (Jan. 10) in an 82-68 road win over Weber State.
That is the highest shooting percentage for Eastern Washington in any contest since the team shot 57.8 percent (26-of-45) in an 81-56 win over Portland State on Feb. 12, 2005.
Eastern also made 54.5 percent (24-of-44) in a 63-58 win over Pacific on Dec. 13 and 55.6 percent (30-of-54) in an 80-70 defeat of San Francisco on Nov. 21.
"Our shot selection was really good (in those games)," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "The players took shots that were the best shots for the team and shots they were good at knocking down."
The Eagles had not reached the 50.0 percent mark at all last year and have now done so three times in 2008-09.
The Eagles also had an amazing shooting half against Georgia on Nov. 29, making 60.0 percent from the floor (12-of-20), an impressive rebound from 30.4 percent shooting in the opening stanza (7-of-23).
The last time Eastern Washington shot that high in a half came on Dec. 21, 2007, when the Eagles made 60.6 percent of their shots (20.33) in a road game versus Pacific.
Also, the Eagles shot at a very high clip from three-point territory in that win over the Wildcats on Saturday, making 58.3 percent of their attempts (7-of-12). The last time that high of a three-point shooting percentage occurred on Jan. 10, 2007, in a 76-69 loss to Idaho State (also 7-of-12).
Scott Earns Co-Big Sky POW Honors
Junior Nicole Scott had a perfect performance on Dec. 13 and rode that 6-of-6 showing (including 2-of-2 on threes) to Big Sky Conference Co-Player of the Week accolades. She became the first Eagle to win the honor since Jamie Chicane earned accolades on Jan. 30, 2006.
Scott's perfect shooting, which included a couple of threes, came in a 63-58 home win over Pacific. It was also the best shooting percentage by an Eagle (with at least six attempts) since Felice Moore was 6-of-6 at Montana State on March 6, 2004. The Carson City, Nev., native contributed four rebounds and two steals in the win, as well.
The 6-2 forward also helped the team as a whole make 54.5 percent of its shots in that game (24-of-44), the second time this season the Eagles have made more than 50.0 percent from the floor.
Scott shared the week's honors with Montana's Mandy Morales.
She also had an outstanding game on Saturday (Jan. 10) in an 82-68 win over Weber State, tallying 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 shooting from the free throw line. That point total ties for the second-best by an Eagle in 2008-09.
Scott has now made 23 straight free throws and is shooting at an 88.9 percent clip from the charity stripe this year (24-of-27). Her perfect 14-of-14 free throw shooting in league contests leads the conference.
She has been an intimidating force inside this year, as well, as her blocks per game average of 0.71 ties her for ninth in the Big Sky. She is also 10th in shooting percentage (44.2), 15th in rebounds per game (5.8) and 23rd in points per game (9.7).
Resilient Ryan Turns it on in BSC Play
Freshman Brianne Ryan has not only settled in nicely for the Eagles, but has turned it up several notches since the commencement of Big Sky Conference play.
In the league statistical rankings for conference games only, she not only leads all league players in three-point shooting percentage (85.7), but is second in field goal percentage (68.4), only trailing three-time Kodak/WBCA Honorable Mention All-American Mandy Morales from Montana in that category.
She is also tied for 15th in three-point field goals per game (1.50), 16th in rebounds per game (5.3) and 29th in scoring (9.5 points per game).
This past week in road games with Idaho State and Idaho State on Thursday (Jan. 8) and Weber State on Saturday (Jan. 10), respectively, she shot at a sizzling 75.0 percent clip (9-of-12) and 100.0 percent from beyond the three-point arc (4-of-4). She also led the team in scoring (12.5 points per game) and rebounds per game (7.0) that week.
"Brianne has gotten better and better as the year has gone on," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "She is such a good defensive player, and she is starting to show the offensive part of her game. She has done a nice job in terms of shot selection, as well."
Jess on EWU List, Ranks Nationally
Mid-way through her junior season, point guard Jessica Huntington has moved into the top-10 list for career assists in Eastern Washington history, as her total of 268 places her eighth.
Last weekend, she moved into that slot past Jean Ness, who had 264 from 1978-79 through 1980-81.
Huntington also is one of the nation's best in assist-turnover ratio, as her average of 1.71 (60-to-35) is 44th-best among all NCAA Division I players.
In the Big Sky Conference statistical rankings, she is third in assist-turnover ratio and seventh in assists per game (3.53).
Powerful Piper Shows Clutch Form
Julie Piper had an outstanding weekend of play to start of the 2008-09 Big Sky Conference season, as she averaged 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in wins over Northern Arizona and Sacramento State on Jan. 2 and 4, respectively.
In addition to shooting at an impressive 52.0 percent clip (13-of-25), she led the team in steals with five and tied for the team pace in assists with five and blocks with two.
Against the Lumberjacks on Jan. 2, a 70-64 overtime win, she hit several big shots and grabbed a couple of clutch rebounds.
With 1:37 left in the second half, Piper grabbed an offensive rebound before scoring 13 seconds later to give Eastern a 58-56 lead. Then, with just 14 seconds left, she hit a jumper to tie the game at 60. Piper also secured a key defensive rebound with three seconds left to send the game to overtime.
In the extra session, she converted a jump shot with 34 seconds left to give Eastern a 66-64 lead on its way to the 70-64 win.
Against the Hornets in a 69-64 win two days later, she contributed 21 points, the highest-scoring game any Eagle has posted so far in 2008-09.
"Piper had a really good weekend, well earned for her," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "She works so hard day in and day out, and it's great when everything comes together. She played extremely hard, offensively and defensively.
"Also, our team did a nice job feeding each of our post players and getting them touches inside. Piper worked her tail off, but her teammates did a really nice job getting her the ball."
Piper has played at a high level throughout the season, ranking in several Big Sky Conference statistical categories: sixth in rebounding (7.1), ninth in free throw shooting (77.0 percent), 13th in blocks (0.71 per game) and 18th in scoring (10.8 points per game).
Perhaps most impressively, Piper is far and away the Big Sky leader in offensive rebounds per game with 3.47 (the second-best average, 2.93, is shared by Montana State's Nubia Garcia and Weber State's Caitlin Anderson).
Piper has also tallied at least eight points in 14 of Eastern's 17 games played so far this year. The sophomore has led the team in rebounding in 11 contests, including in six of Eastern's last seven outings.
Kyla Nails Shots from Everywhere
Sophomore guard Kyla Evans has shot lights out so far in 2008-09, as she ranks highly among the top 75 NCAA Division I players in both three-point baskets made per game (58th, 2.4) and three-point shooting percentage (74th, 37.7).
She leads the league in three-pointers per game and is ninth in three-point shooting percentage.
"I have been pleased with Kyla and the way she has shot the three," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We've also talked to her about hunting for her shot because we know teams are going to be focusing on closing her down."
In fact, Evans is listed in four different Big Sky statistical categories. She is also ninth in overall shooting percentage (44.3) and 12th in scoring (11.4 points per game).
Her career three-point makes of 92 have already placed her sixth in Eagle history in that category (just one behind fifth, currently held by Tracy Ford-Phelps, who played for EWU from 1996-97 through 1999-2000).
This feat is especially impressive when you consider she is half-way through her sophomore season and had missed 11 games her freshman campaign due to an injury.
Evans shot extremely well in Eastern's 80-70 defeat of San Francisco on Nov. 21, as she made 8-of-10 shots. The three-point specialist was covered tightly on the outside that night and adjusted her game by taking shots from nearly every spot on the court, only two of them from three-point range.
She finished with 20 points in the game, tied for the second-highest point total posted by any Eagle so far in 2008-09.
"Kyla really improved her mid-range game this summer, spending a lot of time working on pull-up jumpers and those kinds of moves," Schuller said. "That was what she really had to pull out of her bag against San Francisco because they were not letting her get any open looks. She did a really nice job knocking those shots down."
Against Southeastern Conference-member Georgia on Nov. 29, she also shot at an impressive clip, making 6-of-8 attempts, 4-of-5 from three-point range.
Evans then made more than 50.0 percent of her three-point shots for the third time in 10 outings this season when she nailed 5-of-8 from beyond the arc (5-of-9 overall) versus Utah State on Dec. 6.
Excellence from the Free Throw Line
A year ago, the Eastern Washington Eagles set a school record with its top-notch free throw shooting. That squad nailed 73.3 percent of its charity tosses, breaking the school record set the year before (71.2).
The 2007-08 Eagles really turned on its free-throw shooting during Big Sky play, converting 75.4 percent of its attempts during that portion of the schedule.
Seventeen games into the 2008-09 campaign, the Eagles are hitting at a 71.0 percent clip (215-of-303). In the four Big Sky contests, the team has made 75.3 percent of its charity tosses (70-of-93).
And the Honors Go To ...
Eastern Washington as a team was once again honored over the summer, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll.
It marked the seventh consecutive season the Eagles had ranked 10th or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.
Eagles Picked Ninth
Eastern Washington was picked ninth in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches and media polls.
The two polls were nearly identical. Both picked Montana to win the title, and the Grizzlies were followed, in order, by Portland State, Montana State, Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona, Weber State/Idaho State (WSU was sixth in the coaches poll and seventh in the media poll, while ISU was seventh and sixth, respectively), Sacramento State and the Eagles.
"Our team is hungry this year," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We have a great group of players who really play hard for each other.
"We had a rough year last year and a rough off-season, and those memories have set with a lot of us. We also have new players who are determined not to let those types of things happen."