On one hand the Eastern Washington women’s basketball team is in familiar territory as they open Big Sky Conference play – on the road – where they have played eight of their first 11 games.
New to head coach Wendy Schuller’s crew is for the first time in her 12-year tenure, the Eagles begin their Big Sky Conference slate before Christmas break. With 11 teams now in the league, and 20 conference games, the Eagles must make an early debut - and this year, that debut is on the road.
Eastern plays Weber State tonight (Dec. 20) at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah, where EWU has won four straight. This Saturday, Eastern takes on defending Big Sky regular-season and tournament champion Idaho State in Pocatello.This is a road game Eastern has not been able to win in nearly a decade. Both games this week are scheduled to tip off at 11 a.m.
“It’s definitely different for us,” Schuller said on starting conference play before Christmas. “We always used to view that point up until Christmas as our prep phase. So, to throw those two league games in - and pretty important ones at that - is certainly different.”
The conference opener Thursday at Weber State will be Eastern’s first contest in nearly two weeks. The Eagles played Boise State on Dec. 7, before a 12-day hiatus which included finals week.
But in that last game in Boise, a 74-63 win drew big praise from Schuller.
“I liked our last outing at Boise State,” Schuller said. “We shot the ball well; we just better offensively.”
This was in contrast to their 65-50 humbling at Gonzaga, Dec. 4, a team they lost to 75-69 a year ago. “I was disappointed with us against Gonzaga,” she said. “Execution and sharing the ball, I just didn’t think we had any flow offensively, it was hard to watch.”
“This long layoff isn’t great,” Schuller said. “But it did give us a chance to just take our time and focus on specific things. It also gave us a chance to nurse some kids back to health in a way.”
Weber State, which has 11 newcomers on its 2012-13 roster, comes with a 0-9 record on the year.
Idaho State owns a 5-3 record with losses to Kansas State and Kansas. The Bengals lost only one starter from last year’s Big Sky Championship team, and among the four other returning starters, two were All-Big Sky selections.