January 29, 2007

Montana State and Montana Pay Cheney a Visit

Jan. 29, 2007

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The two NCAA Division I schools in the Treasure State come to visit Reese Court and play the Eagles this week. Montana State will take on Eastern at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 1), while the Eagles play host to Montana at 2:05 p.m. two days later.

The Eagles are coming off an uplifting 74-56 win over Sacramento State on Sunday. The victory allowed Eastern Washington to snap a six-game losing streak. Eastern as a team shot very well in the contest, as evidenced by its 55.4 shooting percentage (31-of-56), marking the first time this season the Eagles have made more shots than not.

"I feel good about our team," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We played with a lot more purpose, our shot selection was better and our defense was better."

There are still areas in their game that the Eagles could still use some improvement, including needing "to finish every defensive possession with a rebound," Schuller said. "You can play great defense, but there is nothing more disheartening than giving up an offensive rebound at the end of a tough defensive stand."

The Montana State Bobcats come into this week's play with an 8-11 mark, 3-4 in Big Sky Conference play, and have played well of late. The Bobcats defeated the defending Big Sky regular-season champion Idaho State on ISU's home court, 91-80, on Jan. 25 before topping Northern Colorado, 68-47, and falling in a tight one to defending tournament champion Northern Arizona, 60-52.

Montana State's 8-11 record is a vast improvement on last season, when the Bobcats went 3-23.

The all-time series between the teams, dating back to the 1975-76 season, is tied at 31-apiece. The Eagles have claimed five straight meetings, including a clutch 69-66 win in Bozeman to start off the 2006-07 Big Sky campaign.

"Montana State is playing extremely well right now," Schuller said. "They are young and getting things together. They play really hard and it is going to be a battle, like it was at their place when were down at the half and had to fight hard in the second half to get a win."

Montana enters the week with an 18-2 mark and is 6-1 in Big Sky play, 1/2 game behind first-place Weber State. The Lady Griz have been on the "also receiving votes" list for both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls for several weeks. Montana has a history of success, having won an average of 23 games a season for the past 26 seasons.

Last week, the Lady Griz won a couple of home games, defeating Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. Prior to that, Montana fell at Weber State, 64-49.

Montana is by far the highest-placing Big Sky team in the collegerpi.com rankings, as the Lady Griz come in 33rd. Montana is the only BSC team ranked among the top 125 nationally.

Montana leads the all-time series with Eastern Washington, 59-12, and has won two straight meetings. The last game in Cheney had a different outcome, however, as the Eagles were able to claim a 58-56 win on Jan. 28, 2006. Brittney Osborn, a sophomore at the time, made a basket with just a couple ticks showing on the clock to secure Eastern's historic win.

The Lady Griz play at Portland State on Thursday prior to meeting Eastern.

"Hopefully our performance will be a lot better (on Saturday) than it was in Missoula," Schuller said. "(It seemed like) there was a lid on the hoop down there; we just could not put anything in the basket." (the Eagles shot 15-of-73 / 20.5 percent in that game)

Sensational Sydney

Sydney Benson had a couple of outstanding performances in Eastern Washington's trip to Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado, as she averaged 12 points and 12 rebounds per game and recorded her fourth and fifth double-doubles of the season.

Her rebound total of 14 versus Northern Colorado is an Eagle season high.

She was also a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line and made 16 straight overall before that streak was snapped. Against UNC, she helped the Eagles narrowly miss tying the school record for free throw percentage. Eastern hit on 19-of-20 shots from the charity stripe in that contest (the Eagles made 20-of-20 in a 62-56 win at Idaho on Jan. 27, 1984). Benson hit on 8-of-8 in that contest.

Awesome Allen

Phynique Allen had an outstanding game on Jan. 13 versus Portland State, as the sophomore set season highs for the Eagles in points scored with 26 and free throw percentage after nailing all 10 attempted. The last Eagle to make 100 percent of her free throws while attempting 10 or more was Kathleen Nygaard, as she hit on 10-of-10 in a 61-60 win over Portland on Dec. 30, 2001.

Allen also has earned season-high totals for the Eagles in assists in a game (8) and steals in a contest (5), both earned versus Portland State on Dec. 31.

Sensational Scott

Eagle freshman Nicole Scott was hitting on all cylinders on Jan. 13 against the Portland State Vikings, as she hit on 8-of-13 shooting for a career-high point total of 19. Her previous high of 14 was set two days previously versus Idaho State.

Then, against Sacramento State on Jan. 28, she hit on 8-of-11 shooting (her 72.7 shooting percentage is the second-highest by an Eagle this year) and accumulated 18 points.

Scott's five blocks at Portland State is the most earned by an Eagle in a contest so far this season. The total is also tied for the most attained by any Big Sky Conference player in 2006-07.

Catch (and Shoot) Chadd

Joanna Chadd has hit threes throughout her Eastern Washington career and this year is no different for the Eagle senior. She made six from beyond the three-point stripe versus Corban College on Nov. 17 (tied for the most by a Big Sky player in 2006-07) and made five each against Portland (Dec. 31) and Washington State (Dec. 2).

Overall, she is shooting 36.9 percent on three-point attempts (48-of-130).

Chadd is also a top free throw shooter, as evidenced by her 84.3 percent average (43-of-51).

What Free Throw Shooting!

Eastern Washington recently went on a hot streak from the charity stripe, as the Eagles have made 56-of-67 (83.6 percent) in a three-game road stretch at Portland State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.

On Jan. 20 versus Northern Colorado, the Eagles made 19-of-20, just missing tying the school record for free throw percentage (the Eagles hit 20-of-20 in a 62-56 win at Idaho on Jan. 27, 1984).

Earlier this season, 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.

Eastern currently has four players ranked in the top 15 of the Big Sky Conference rankings, led by Katy Baker, who has made 42-of-48 for 87.5 percent, good for second place. She is followed by Joanna Chadd (fifth), Brittney Osborn (11th) and Phynique Allen (12th).

Eagles Open League Play with Clutch Win

Eastern Washington opened up the 2006-07 Big Sky Conference season in dramatic fashion, pulling out a 69-66 victory on the road against Montana State.

In the 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.

After the Bobcats shot 48.6 percent in the first half, the Eagles put the clamps down and held MSU to just 17.9 percent shooting in the second stanza.

The win marked the fifth consecutive Big Sky season-opening victory for the Eagles.

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

Eastern Washington completed an impressive win over the visiting Portland Pilots, 84-66, on Dec. 31. 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 (and still holds) 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, at the time 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.

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.

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 in which 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.

The 102 points scored is still tied for the most by a Big Sky team in 2006-07, but is the most against NCAA Division I opposition (Idaho State did so versus Montana Tech and Montana-Western).

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.

An Impressive 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 Fourth 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 835, which places the Eagles fourth among Big Sky Conference teams.

The two Montana schools pace the league, as Montana has drawn 3,709 per contest and Montana State is averaging 1,326. Idaho State is third with 835 per game (percentage points behind Eastern). Following the Eagles are Weber State (712), Northern Arizona (470), Northern Colorado (390), Portland State (329) and Sacramento State (246).

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

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.

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.

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 selected road contests. 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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