Feb. 6, 2008
It's good to be home.
This week, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will start a stretch of 6-of-8 games to be played at home, which comes on the heels of 9-of-11 contests played away from Cheney. First up will be Sacramento State (7:05 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7) and Northern Arizona (2:05 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9). Both teams are tied for sixth place in the Big Sky Conference standings.
In fact, Eastern Washington (3-18, 0-8 BSC) will play the three teams directly ahead of it in the standings the next three games (EWU takes on eighth-place Weber State in Ogden, Utah, on Feb. 14).
Following two road games on Feb. 14 and 16, the Eagles close out the regular season with four consecutive home contests.
"We're happy to be at home," head coach Wendy Schuller said.
The Eagles played well last week in road losses to Montana State and Montana.
"I was very pleased with our efforts," Schuller said. "We grew as a team and did some positive things, so hopefully we can take that growth into this week."
Eastern wrapped up the week with a 77-59 loss to Montana, a team that received a vote in this week's AP Top 25 poll. The Eagles were tied at 31 early in the second half and kept the game within 6-12 points for 10 minutes of that half until Montana pulled away with five minutes to go.
Thursday's game with Montana State was similar, as Eastern Washington was within three in the second half, 49-46, before a 12-2 MSU run allowed the Bobcats to create some space between the teams.
Sacramento State is having one of its best years in recent memory, as the Hornets are 3-5 in Big Sky play and 5-15 overall. The Big Sky win total is just one off a school record, as Sacramento State has never claimed more than four league games in its 12 years in the conference. On Jan. 19, the Hornets beat Northern Arizona on the road, 62-53, for their first-ever win against the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff.
The Eagles have won 11-of-15 and 3-of-4 meetings with the Hornets, including two straight at home.
"We played a very close game with Sacramento State on their home floor (a 73-70 Sacramento State win)," Schuller said. "Now we're at home and obviously have a strong desire to get a win. If we can make the adjustments from the last time we played, we'll have a great opportunity to get a win."
Northern Arizona (7-14, 3-5 BSC) has played better as of late, as the Lumberjacks ended a 1-9 run with two wins in its last three games. Comfortable victories over Idaho State, 82-67, and Weber State, 75-63, on Jan. 24 and 26, respectively, were followed by a 63-56 loss to Northern Colorado on Saturday (Feb. 2).
Eastern Washington has lost three consecutive contests with Northern Arizona, although the Eagles have still taken 7-of-12 games. At home, EWU has prevailed in 4-of-5 meetings.
"NAU is playing well right now and getting better and better," Schuller said. "But we are going to focus on (the game on) Thursday and hopefully gain some momentum going into the weekend."
With the addition of 200 schools to the list in the past month, Eastern Washington University will now be one of more than 800 universities across the country to raise breast cancer awareness this Saturday (Feb. 7) during EWU's home contest with Northern Arizona.
The WBCA's "Think Pink" initiative is a global, unified effort to raise breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
"The WBCA is very excited to promote an initiative that touches all levels of our membership and unifies them for such a great cause," WBCA CEO Beth Bass said. "It has been remarkable to watch the support of this initiative grow from 120 schools last year to over 600 schools for 2008. With the help of each of our members, the women's basketball community can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer."
If you wear pink on Saturday, you will get into the game for free, while if you do not, you will still receive 2-for-1 admission. Students, as always, are allowed admission free of charge with an EWU card.
The Eagles will be wearing pink shoelaces, while the referees will be using pink whistles.
Information about breast cancer awareness will also be available at the game.
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 has made 3.14 three-point baskets per game and has shot 43.1 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, due to a stress reaction in her left foot, she has missed the last seven games and is no longer eligible to be ranked in the Big Sky Conference and NCAA Division I statistical charts (she needs to have played in 75 percent of Eastern's games). As of Jan. 21, when she was eligible, the freshman was sixth in the NCAA Division I ranks for three-point makes and 24th in percentage (first and fifth in the league in those respective categories).
Her 12.4 points per game is the highest average on the team and, prior to her falling in the ineligible category, was the highest among Big Sky freshmen.
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).
Evans 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 this year (71.4 percent).
Syd Earns Her 500th Rebound
With 64 seconds to play in Missoula, Mont., on Saturday (Feb. 4), Sydney Benson pulled down her 500th career rebound. After tallying 100 her freshman year and 244 the season after that, she has compiled 156 this year.
Benson has tallied rebounds at a high rate in her career, evidenced by her current placement of ninth in the school record book for career rebounds per game (6.49).
On Dec. 15, Benson tied a school mark 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 fourth in free-throw shooting (82.9 percent), seventh in rebounds per game (7.4), eighth in blocks per game (0.76) 10th in shooting percentage (45.1) and 17th in points per game (11.1).
Also, Benson's free throw shooting percentage is the 52nd best among NCAA Division I players and currently places her second in the single-season school record book in that category.
Passing the Rock
Sophomore point guard Jessica Huntington has led the Eagles in assists throughout the season and is averaging 4.95 per contest, tied for the third-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 52nd-best among NCAA Division I players.
That average was bolstered by a 10-assist performance on Jan. 26 versus Portland State and nine more against Montana State on Thursday (Jan. 31). In the PSU game, she became the first Eagle to attain double digits in that statistical category since Michelle Demetruk had 11 against Portland State on Jan. 25, 2003.
Also, her assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74, 99-to-57) is the fourth-highest in the league and 55th-best nationally.
She also had nine assists on two other occasions this year, in Eastern Washington's 66-62 loss to Akron on Nov. 22 and on Nov. 30 versus UC Irvine on Nov. 30. Against Sacramento State on Jan. 5, she contributed eight helpers.
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 (0.95), 11th in rebounds per game (6.2), 15th in field goal percentage (42.8) and 20th in points per game (10.4).
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.
Against Montana on Saturday (Feb. 2), she was nailing shots from outside, as she made 4-of-5 of her attempts from beyond the three-point line.
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 8-of-11 games after tallying just 24 combined points in her first nine games.
Her hot play has allowed Sparavalo to enter the Big Sky Conference's statistical rankings in points per game, where she ranks 30th (7.8).
In Big Sky games only, she ranks 13th in points per game with 12.6 and is the highest-ranking freshman in that category.
Awesome Amy Hits From Outside
Junior Amy Bratvold entered the Big Sky Conference statistical rankings for the first time last week, and she is now 14th among league players in three-point shooting percentage (34.4) and is 15th in three-point makes per game (1.05).
Bratvold has also posted double-digit point totals in 6-of-9 contests after doing so just once in her previous 12 appearances.
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 eighth in the league in assists per game (3.31), ninth in steals per game (1.38), 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.95, 53-to-56), 14th in free-throw shooting (74.1 percent) and 15th 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.
This will be the final week Baker will be listed among Big Sky Conference leaders, as she will no longer have played the minimum 75 percent of Eastern's games to qualify.
Looking Back at Christmas Week
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 is 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.
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 once again on 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:
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 16 in the regular season, and nailed 4-of-5 from beyond the three-point stripe versus Montana on Saturday (Feb. 2).