Make no mistake: Eastern Washington women’s basketball coach Wendy Schuller isn’t taking this week lightly.
Big Sky Conference co-leaders North Dakota and Northern Colorado are coming to Reese Court, which gives the Eagles a chance to move up the standings and get back in contention for a league title.
However, with just four weeks left in the regular season, Schuller is looking at the big picture.
“In all honesty, we’re just trying to get better every day – our eyes are on March,” said Schuller, whose club is 13-9 overall and 8-3 in the Big Sky going into Thursday’s game against North Dakota.
UND and Northern Colorado are both 10-1 in the conference.
“They’ve both played very well, and they’re both very tough teams,” Schuller said.
“More than anything we’re going to be able to gauge where we are.”
They also give the Eagles a chance to get some more momentum for Schuller’s “Big Three”: point guard Tisha Phillips and forwards Delaney Hodgins and Ashli Payne.
For the season, the trio has combined to average 44.7 points – almost two-thirds of the Eagles’ team-scoring average of 67.9.
For the first time this season, Schuller got complete games out of all three during a road sweep of Sacramento State and Portland State to put the Eagles in fourth place.
It was Eastern’s first road sweep of the season.
“They’re the ‘Big Three’ for a reason,” said Schuller, who got 50 points from the trio in Saturday’s tight 68-62 win at PSU.
Payne came through with 13 points – she went 9 for 10 from the foul line – along with a team-high 14 rebounds and five assists.
“She’s capable of doing so many things … the consistency of her game is getting better,” said Schuller, who still has a chance to win 20 games for the third straight season.
Bulldogs have healthy perspective this season
A year ago, Gonzaga was limping toward the postseason – not coincidentally because of injuries. Not this year.
“We’re thankful, but we know anything is possible,” said coach Lisa Fortier, who lost Elle Tinkle and Emma Wolfram for most of the season and other players for long stretches.
That was just one factor in a season that left the Zags in fifth place in the West Coast Conference at 10-8.
Currently, they’re sitting alone at the top, 10-2 going into Thursday’s home game against Loyola Marymount.
“We don’t dwell on it (injuries),” Fortier said. “We just had to go with what we had.”
Washington State hopes
to build on win over Utah
Late in Sunday’s game at Utah, Cougars coach June Daugherty tried to ignore the negatives.
Two days earlier, Washington State had blown a 13-point lead at Colorado.
“It felt like déjà vu,” Daugherty said as the Cougars lost a similar lead at Utah before rallying for a 61-55 Pac-12 win.
The fourth quarter was owned by sophomore Alexys Swedlund, who came up with 10 of her 13 points in the game’s final 10 minutes including hitting 1 of 2 from the line in the final seconds to seal the deal for the Cougars.
“We’ve been battling all year,” Daugherty said.
“It’s been an interesting year just because of all the injuries, but I’m proud of the kids.”
The Cougars are 10-13 overall and 5-7 in the Pac-12 going into this week’s home stand against fifth-place Arizona State and last-place Arizona.
Arizona State is “all about playing tough and getting after you,” said Daugherty, whose club lost to both teams on the road last month.
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