Washington Pays Visit to Cheney

Nov. 20, 2006

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The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will bring its best start in 22 seasons into Tuesday night's (Nov. 21) appearance of the Washington Huskies at Reese Court for the first time in 16 years.

The Eagles have sandwiched a couple of wins over NAIA teams around an impressive road victory to earn a 3-0 mark, which is the team's best start since the 1984-85 team began its campaign with a stellar 5-0 record.

That squad topped California, Pacific, Fresno State, Western Oregon and Western Michigan in its first quintet of contests. That team's first loss came in a 94-85 triple-overtime thriller at Eastern Illinois. The squad finished 20-7, 11-3 in the Mountain West Conference, placing second.

The Huskies last paid a visit to EWU's campus on Dec. 11, 1990. On that date, Washington topped the Eagles, 89-56. Overall, the Huskies have won 13 straight meetings with Eastern Washington and 18-of-19 overall. The Eagles won, 80-68, in Seattle on Feb. 22, 1980. The teams have met 12 times in Seattle on seven occasions in Cheney.

Last season, the teams played on Dec. 12 in Seattle (a 68-57 Washington win), the first meeting between the teams since 1995-96.

This season, Washington is 0-2 following a 78-61 loss at Marquette, the defending NIT runner-up, and an 88-64 setback at Purdue, a Sweet 16 team in 2005-06. The 0-2 start is UW's first since the 1996-97 season.

The Eagles got the season off to a winning start with a 75-69 win over Montana Tech on Nov. 10 in a game contested at Spokane Community College.

That contest was followed by a dominating 80-60 road win over UC Irvine on Nov. 13. In that game, the Eagles pulled away, going on a 22-5 run early in the second half.

Eastern Washington followed that up with its first game in 2006-07 to take place at Reese Court. The Eagles used their home cooking to the utmost, dominating the Warriors, 96-57, on Friday (Nov. 17). A 30-9 run in the middle of the game allowed Eastern to increase a four-point lead to 25. The Eagles went up by as many as 41 before claiming their 39-point win.

In EWU's victory over Montana Tech, the Eagles were led by Chadd (16 points, 4-of-9 shooting on three-pointers), Katy Baker (13 points, seven rebounds), Brittney Osborn (14 points, five rebounds), Jessica Huntington (five rebounds), Tara Holgate (three blocks) and Nicole Scott (four blocks). The latter two players helped Eastern to a convincing 10-0 blocks advantage in the contest.

Runs of 12-2 (late in the first half), 14-2 (early part of second half) and 7-0 (breaking a 67-all tie with two minutes left) helped Eastern Washington claim its season-opening contest.

In the win over UC Irvine, Baker had her first career double-double at Eastern Washington in just her second game, tallying 16 points and earning 11 rebounds. Three other Eagles contributed double-digit point totals: Ashley Knight (14), Holgate (10) and Joanna Chadd (10).

Eastern's 22-5 run increased EWU's 37-35 lead with 18:35 remaining to 59-40 with 11:23 left. From that point on, the Eagles saw their lead fluctuate from 15-21 points, as Eastern held on for the comfortable victory.

Chadd led the Eagles to their win over Corban College with a sizzling 66.7 shooting percentage from the three-point line (6-of-9 -- overall, she shot 64.3 percent, 9-of-14). She tallied 24 points in the contest. That point total is the second-highest she has had in her four years at Eastern. Her record is 25, which she had on Jan. 17, 2004, in a 67-49 home win over Sacramento State.

Also contributing significantly to the win where Sydney Benson (eight points on 4-of-8 shooting and a game-high 11 rebounds), Leah Gonnella (15 points, six rebounds), Osborn (13 points) and Scott (12 points).

• The Eagles are coming off a 13-15 (7-7 Big Sky Conference) season, which saw EWU finish in a fourth-place tie in the regular-season standings. As the fourth seed, its highest seed in the tourney since 1995, Eastern fell in the Big Sky Conference quarterfinals to No. 5 Weber State, 74-69.

• The Eagles were selected fifth (tied with Portland State) in the Big Sky'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.

• Eastern Washington has compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference campaigns for the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. In 2004-05, the Eagles went 8-6 in Big Sky play, 16-12 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 only playing in three the first 11 years that the BSC sponsored women's sports.

• After losing a talented group of post players, Eastern looks to rely on an experienced tandem of guards in 2006-07 and play more up-tempo basketball than has been the case previously in the Schuller era.

• Seven letterwinners, including three starters, return for Eastern, while two letterwinners (both starters) were lost. The three starters returning are Sydney Benson, Leah Gonnella and Brittney Osborn.

Joanna Chadd is among the returnees as well. In 2005-06, she claimed Big Sky Conference Co-Defensive MVP honors after recording 0.9 steals per game. She also tallied 9.1 points and 2.3 assists per game and served as the team's leading three-point shooter, making 48-of-139 for 34.5 percent accuracy.

• Benson had an outstanding freshman season, averaging 2.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

• Gonnella returned to the Spokane area last year to attend EWU and play for the Eagles, as the Mead High School grad and University of Toledo transfer tallied 5.6 points and 2.8 assists last season. She also poured in 31 three-point shots.

• Osborn has had two solid years as a wing for the Eagles. Last season, she averaged 6.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

• The 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), Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each are from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.

• After qualifying for three Big Sky Tournament semifinal contests in the past five years, the Eagles' goal in 2006-07 is to claim the conference championship. EWU qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1987 after claiming the Mountain West Conference (predecessor to the Big Sky Conference in women's athletics) Tournament championship with a 77-74 win at Montana in the title contest. The Eagles fell at Oregon in NCAA play, 75-56.

• Eastern Washington as a team was honored recently, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the fourth consecutive season that the Eagles had ranked third or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.

• This season's non-conference schedule will serve as ample challenge for the Eagles, as the team prepares itself for the Big Sky Conference schedule. Included in EWU's November and December slate of contests will be games versus a pair of top-25 squads. The Eagles will play host to No. 23 Washington on Tuesday (Nov. 21) before taking on No. 9 LSU just four days later in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic. New rankings are scheduled to come out on Tuesday (Nov. 21).

Wendy Schuller on Washington Head Coach June Daugherty

"I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the job that (Husky head coach) June Daugherty and her staff have done at Washington. They recruit not only great players, but good kids and do things the right way."

Wendy Schuller on the Washington Huskies

"We are definitely going to have our hands full with them. Anytime you are playing a team that is rated in the top 25 of the preseason polls, went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year and has everybody back, you know you are going to be playing a high-level opponent. The opportunity to play with that type of caliber of competition is very good for us.

"Their rebounding and defensive transition is great. Early in the season, in particular, transition defense is something that some teams do not do well, but they do. They are an unbelievable rebounding team. We are going to have to execute to function and to score. I am looking forward to our players stepping up and showing ability-wise what we are capable of. It is going to be good for us -- challenging. We need to play these games to see what we can rise to as a team."

Wendy Schuller on Playing the Huskies in Cheney

"I appreciate that they are playing a home-and-home with us (Washington won, 68-57, in Seattle last season). The opportunity to play them in our own gym is a special thing, and we are looking forward to the chance. Playing UW in Cheney for the first time in 16 years -- what an event!"

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