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Eastern women get key road win, shoot for success at home

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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Montana, Montana State visit Reese Court for games Friday, Saturday

One Big Sky victory does not a season make, but snagging a 90-85 victory over Sacramento State last Thursday afternoon accomplished a couple of key of things for Eastern Washington University's women's basketball team.

First, the win broke a three-game losing streak for the Eagles (1-0 Big Sky Conference, 7-6 overall). It also gave Eastern a little boost in stealing away a road victory, something that can be hard to do in the BSC, plus pay potential post-season dividends further into the schedule.

Early on, and with no clear-cut power emerging in BSC play since no team has fewer than six losses, any win is crucial it would appear.

Now, Eastern has a golden opportunity to establish itself as an early favorite with a good showing in home games against Montana (1-0, 6-7) on Friday and Montana State (1-1, 8-7) Saturday. Both games start at 7:05 p.m. at Reese Court.

"It will be our first experience playing back-to-back days, so we'll have to be able to re-focus quickly after Friday night's game," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "Our preparation will most likely be less detailed and it will be important for us to focus more than anything on doing what we do well. It's important to defend home floor and get wins."

Schuller said "We know we'll have our hands full." Both opponents were top-4 picks in the Big Sky. "Montana is younger and lost some four-year starters," Schuller said. "They have come together in the last two to three weeks."

As for Montana State, "They will push the pace," Schuller said. "It will be different than Sac State. Where Montana will want to keep the game in the 50 to 60 (point) range, Montana State will want the game in the 70s and 80s." The Bobcats shoot a Big Sky-leading 42.6 percent from the field and average 71 points per game and along with Eastern are one of the top offensive teams in the conference.

In getting that unusually high-scoring opening conference victory, "Sac State played a unique style," Schuller said. "They push the tempo and tried to get us out of our comfort zone." That up-tempo effort contributed to what turned out to be a higher than usual point total.

The number of possessions were higher than normal, Schuller explained, but it led to the Eagles scoring their highest point totals of the year against a D-I opponent. "We tried to slow things down but it's hard to turn down 3-on-2s," she said.

The result was a balanced attack paced by junior Kyla Evans who, had a team-high 14 points on 5-of-10 snooting, including 4-of-8 from the 3-point line. Brianne Ryan turned in a double/double performance for the second game in a row, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Julie Piper and Chene Cooper added 12 points each, while Tatjana Sparavalo added another 10. Point guard Jessica Huntington contributed all over the court, scoring nine points, dishing out 10 assists and pulling down seven rebounds.

Eastern held a 48-45 lead at the half, was up by as many as 13 points in the second half, but the Hornets battled back to come within two points with 22 seconds remaining. Cooper was fouled and made both free throw attempts to put the game on ice for EWU.

If there was one thing Schuller was disappointed in it was rebounding. "We need to do a better job there."

Paul Delaney can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: January 7, 2010

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