January 24, 2008

Eagles to Take on Big Sky Leaders

Jan. 24, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team is in the midst of a light stretch in their 2007-08 schedule, as the Eagles will play just two contests in an 18-day span. The second of those will be this weekend, as Eastern takes on Portland State in the Rose City at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 26). The Vikings are currently tied for first place in the Big Sky Conference standings with Montana and Idaho State. Portland State will enter the contest having won 11 straight home contests.

"We are excited to get back out there," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We have not played in a while. Last weekend we gave the team a couple days off to regroup a little bit, and I am very pleased with our effort and with how hard we have practiced this week."

Additionally, the Eagles are in the midst of nine road contests in an 11-game span (EWU makes the trip to Montana State and Montana next week to wrap up that stretch). Eastern Washington (3-15, 0-5 BSC) is having a tough run as of late, as the Eagles are looking for their first win since defeating Great Falls 73-57. That was Eastern's last game before the Eagles started on this 11-game stretch.

The Vikings are 4-1 in Big Sky play (15-3 overall) and off to their best-ever conference start. Portland State joined the league with the 1996-97 campaign. Its most impressive win of the season came in a 97-57 defeat of Idaho State, PSU's largest margin of victory ever attained at the NCAA Division I level.

"Judging by the preseason polls (which placed PSU sixth), Portland State is the surprise team in the league," Schuller said. "They have really done a great job defending and playing to their players' strengths and have had a great start to the season."

Eastern Washington has won 12-of-16 meetings with the Vikings, including their last match-up, 80-61, in Cheney, Wash., on Feb. 15, 2007. The last time the squads met in Portland on Jan. 13, 2007, the Vikings came out victorious by an 84-82 score when an Eagle three-point shot at the buzzer did not fall.

 

Kyla's Blog - Everyone's Reading It!

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

On the court, Evans has shot lights out from three-point range, as she ranks sixth among all NCAA Division I players in three-point makes per game (3.14) and is 24th in three-point shooting percentage (43.1). She ranks first and fifth 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) and scored 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.

Versus 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).

Unfortunately Evans has a stress reaction in her left foot and will be unable to play for the next several weeks.

 

Serbian Sensation

Freshman Tatjana Sparavalo has had some impressive performances the last several 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 before the break 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 half, which nearly doubled the freshman's previous career high of 12. It is also the most points scored by an Eagle so far this year.

She has scored at least 12 points in six of her last eight games, after tallying just 24 points in her first nine games combined. She leads the team in that seven-game span with 14.1 points per game.

Her hot play over the last eight games has allowed Sparavalo to enter the Big Sky Conference's statistical rankings in points per game, where she ranks 30th (8.1).

 

Syd 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 had an incredible hot streak from Dec. 18-Jan. 5, when she led the Eagles in points per game at 15.6 and shot at a 59.6 percent rate from the floor.

The junior is impressively ranked in five different categories in the Big Sky Conference, as she is seventh in free-throw shooting (80.3 percent), seventh in rebounds per game (7.3), tied for eighth in blocks per game (0.67) 12th in shooting percentage (43.0) and 21st in points per game (10.1).

Also, Benson's free throw shooting percentage is the 95th best among NCAA Division I players.

 

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 Washington did rally late in the USF contest, however, using a 6-0 spurt to pull within five points at 84-79 with 2:25 left in the contest.

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 the Eagles made 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 Pacific 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 for a game 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 fall quarter 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 that 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 five different categories.

She is seventh in the league in assists per game (3.31), eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.95, 53-to-56), ninth in steals per game (1.38), 12th in free-throw shooting (74.1 percent) and 14th in points per game (11.1).

She also contributed double-digit point totals in 11 different contests this season.

Baker unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury in the game with Idaho State on Jan. 10. She tore both her anterior cruciate ligament and her lateral meniscus.

 

Passing the Rock

Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 4.53 per contest, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 69th-best among NCAA Division I players.

Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.77, 77-to-45) is the fifth-highest in the league and 57th-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 Jan. 5, she contributed eight helpers.

Those nine-assist totals are the most posted by an Eastern player since Leah Gonnella had that many 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 sixth in blocks per game (0.94), 12th in rebounds per game (6.3), 14th in field goal percentage (42.2) and 22nd in points per game (9.9).

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.

The Eagles however did just that on Thursday (Jan. 10) versus Idaho State, making 7-of-12 three-pointers (58.3 percent) in that contest.

 

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 10 in the regular season.

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