Second-place Eagles aim for strong finish

TUESDAY, FEB. 14, 2012, 8:54 P.M.

Eastern Washington University women’s basketball coach Wendy Schuller is living in the present.

Her Eagles have four Big Sky Conference regular-season games remaining prior to the conference tournament, and there is still a lot of work to be done – beginning Thursday when EWU travels to Northern Colorado to take on the Bears.

“We were way too passive on both ends of the floor. We weren’t aggressive, we weren’t trapping and we weren’t flying around like I know we can,” Schuller said following the Eagles’ 56-53 loss to the Bears in Cheney on Jan. 14.

“When we finally decided to play the way we’re capable of, we produced results. But you can’t wait until late in the second half to do those things against a good team like Northern Colorado. You have to play that way all game.”

The Eagles (16-9, 10-2) responded to the loss, and since then have won their last six games and are second in the conference standings behind Idaho State, which the Eagles will face in their final two games of the regular season.

“We’re definitely not looking ahead (at Idaho State),” Schuller said on Tuesday. “There are two teams in front of us and both of them are really good and can get us into trouble if we overlook them.”

The Bears, who have defeated EWU in the last three meetings between the teams, have already locked up a berth into the Big Sky tournament – the third time in five years of being eligible the Bears have done so.

D’shara Strange leads Northern Colorado scorers, averaging 13.8 points per game, and Lauren Oosdyke is second with 13 ppg.

Strange and Oosdyke also rank first and second on the team in rebounding, respectively, combining for 15 boards a game. The Bears have outrebounded opponents in 11 of their 12 Big Sky contests this season.

“The last time we played them, they gave us fits in the post and we struggled to defend their big kids,” Schuller said. “Our posts were not able to score the way they wanted to score and they played us really physical.

“If they’re allowed to play it like that, we have to match it – we’ve been talking a lot about that with our team.

“They want to keep the game in the 50s – that’s the type of game they like to play. For us, we want to get it in the 70s. We have to do our best to play our game and force them out of their comfort zone.”

Zags ranked No. 23: Gonzaga is ranked for the 10th straight week in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll.

The Bulldogs – who were dropped altogether from the Associated Press Top 25 Poll after last week’s 70-40 loss to BYU – slid six spots to No. 23.

The Bulldogs (22-4, 11-2 West Coast Conference) host Santa Clara on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Gonzaga has won 18 of the last 20 meetings with the Broncos, including the last 12.

Santa Clara coach Jennifer Mountain played at Gonzaga from 1987-91 and was an assistant coach for seven years (2001-08) under Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves.

Gonzaga senior Kayla Standish recently passed Mountain on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list with 1,429 points – good for seventh on the list. Mountain is eighth on the list with 1,422 total points.

In the last meeting between Gonzaga and Santa Clara on Jan. 19, Katelan Redmon scored a career-high 32 points as the Bulldogs beat the Broncos 81-68.

Tip-ins: Idaho sophomore Alyssa Charlston’s team-leading 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game rank fifth in the Western Athletic Conference. She has scored in double-figures in 11 straight games for the Vandals, averaging 18.5 ppg in that span. … Washington State enters the week leading the Pacific-12 Conference in turnover margin (plus-3.2). The Cougars are second in 3-point field-goal defense (26.9), and rank third with 10.0 steals per game.

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