Dec. 11, 2006
The Eastern Washington Eagles (3-6) continue a stretch of three consecutive home games by welcoming Northwestern State (4-4) to Cheney on Friday (Dec. 15). The only previous meeting between the two teams occurred last year, as Northwestern State topped the Eagles in Natchitoches, 72-61. Tip-off is slated for 7:05 p.m.
Eagle head coach Wendy Schuller has a lot of history with the school, as she started her coaching career as a graduate assistant there in 1993. She then became a full-time assistant and, In 1997, she was promoted to the associate head coaching role. Her last six years at the university, she also served as the senior woman administrator. After coaching for nine years under James Smith, someone who led the Lady Demons to 340 wins and 13 postseason appearances in 17 years, she took the Eastern Washington head coaching position.
Northwestern State head coach Jennifer Graf, who took over the role from Smith in 2004, was recruited to play for the Demons by Schuller, who served as the recruiting coordinator for the Lady Demons at that time. Graf finished serving a stint as a graduate assistant at the same time that Schuller took the Eastern Washington position and proceeded to take her position on the coaching staff, acting as an assistant coach.
Northwestern State has rallied from a 0-3 start to win 4-of-5 contests and will travel to the Pacific Northwest with a .500 mark at 4-4. Statistical leaders for the Lady Demons include Ashli Barnum (15.0 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, 2.0 blocks per game and 51.5 percent field goal shooting), Tena Matthews (3.8 steals per game), Shonte Kennedy (4.1 assists per game), Natasha Isom (87.5 percent free throw shooting) and Lyndzee Greene (27.5 percent three point shooting).
The Eagles are coming off an exciting 103-102 overtime loss to Spokane-area rival Gonzaga on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 9). That contest saw both teams score in triple digits for the first time in Eastern Washington history. In the 35 games played between the teams, never before had even one team scored 100 or more points. Saturday's contest also marked the first overtime game of the series. The last time that EWU reached 100 points in any contest came 19 years ago, in a 105-79 win at Portland State on Dec. 11, 1987.
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.
The Washington Huskies then paid its first visit to Cheney in 16 years 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 shortly respond with a 17-4 run to tie the contest at 42-all with 11:29 remaining. The teams remained close down to the wire before Washington claimed its 67-59 win. The Eagles trailed by just two with 5:08 left and four with 1:49 remaining.
On the stat sheet, the Eagles are being led so far this season by Joanna Chadd (16.1 points per game - fourth in the Big Sky, 1.4 steals per game, 90.0 percent free throw shooting - 25th among NCAA Division I players and second in the Big Sky and 38.7 percent three point shooting - eighth in the Big Sky), Katy Baker (7.8 rebounds per game - second in the Big Sky, 1.4 steals per game), Brittney Osborn (1.4 steals per game), Sydney Benson (1.6 blocks per game - second in the Big Sky and 48.3 percent field goal shooting - ninth in the Big Sky) and Phynique Allen (2.6 assists per game). Benson's 6.9 rebounds per game places her fifth among league players. Osborn's 82.8 percent free throw shooting places her seventh, while Baker's 81.8 average earns her the ninth slot. Chadd's 2.67 three-pointers per game places her third in the rankings. Tara Holgate and Nicole Scott tie for ninth in the Big Sky in blocks per game (0.78).
As a team, the Eagles lead the Big Sky Conference in rebounds per game (41.8), offensive rebounds per game (15.33), defensive rebounds per game (26.44 - tied with Montana) and are second in points per game (73.4).
Joanna Chadd has led the Eagles in scoring in six games thus far this season. The season high for an Eagle is 24, scored by Chadd in EWU's 96-57 win over Corban College. She has also posted two 23-point performances in the team's last two games versus other eastern Washington foes: Washington State and Gonzaga.
Katy Baker has set the rebounding pace for Eastern in five different contests, while Sydney Benson has done so in three other games. The season high for rebounds in a contest is 11, held by both players (Baker versus UC Irvine and Gonzaga, Benson against Corban College).
The Eagles have been spreading the ball around, as evidenced by the fact that six different players have led the team in assists in a game so far in 2006-07. Phynique Allen is leading the way with four times (twice tied with teammates). Jessica Huntington, Brittney Osborn and Joanna Chadd have done so on three occurrences (once by themselves and twice shared with teammates). Four of Eastern's nine games have seen more than one player lead the team in assists. The season high of six was attained by Allen and Huntington, with both performances coming versus Corban College.
The steals leader the most times in 2006-07 has been Katy Baker, as she has set the team pace in three contests so far this year (once on a solo basis and twice tied with others). The season high of four has been attained by both Baker (against Washington) and Joanna Chadd (versus Corban College).
The season high for blocked shots in a contest was attained by Nicole Scott in the first game of the season, as she swatted away four Montana Tech shot attempts that day. That total still ties for the second-most recorded by a Big Sky player in 2006-07. Sydney Benson has been a steadying force in this statistical category, as she has led the team in blocks in six games since then.
Tara Holgate has posted the best shooting night of the season so far (for players with at least five field goals made in that game), as she shot 71.4 percent from the floor (5-of-7) in Eastern's 80-60 win over UC Irvine.
With a minimum of two made, Jessica Huntington has had the best three-point shooting performance of 2006-07, as she hit both of her attempts in EWU's 77-67 loss to UTSA. Joanna Chadd hit 66.7 percent of her three-point shots (6-of-9) in Eastern's 96-57 win over Corban College.
The best free-throw shooting performance of 2006-07 has come courtesy of Joanna Chadd, who nailed all nine of her free throws in Eastern's 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga.
Give me another shot! The Eagles pace the Big Sky Conference in offensive rebounds per game with 15.33. On the other side of the court, Eastern is tied for first in defensive rebounds per contest with Montana (26.44). Overall, the Eagles are leading the conference in rebounds per game with 41.8 per contest.
The past two seasons, the Eagles have compiled consecutive .500-or-better conference campaigns 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.
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 that the BSC sponsored women's sports.
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), Leah Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each is from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.
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 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.
Schuller Looking Back, Looking Ahead
"I thought we played hard against Gonzaga, attacked, did some good things, but came up a little bit short. We played a good basketball game and expect the same thing on Friday. Our team is enthused and believe in our system: playing up-tempo and attacking people.
"They were happy in knowing that they had given great effort, but disappointment was there, as well. It was mixed emotions. It is a great rivalry, so you always want to come out of it with a `W.''"
Schuller on Playing Against Jennifer Graf
"It will be fun having Graf up here and letting her see where I am and where my family ended up. Our relationship goes far back, and it will be great to see her and spend time with her."
Schuller on EWU's Growing Pains and Potential
"Going into the year, we knew we were going to be young and inexperienced and that we would go through some growing pains the early part of the season.
"I do see sparks of greatness. We have periods of time when we play really well. I would love to see that for 40 minutes. I know we are capable of it."
All of the 2006-07 women's basketball home games will be audio broadcast free of charge, along with road contests against Idaho, Washington State and Portland State. Announcing the contests is Alyssa Chambers. 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.