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Eastern Washington

Lady Eagles prepare for Montana schools at home

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(Photo: File / EWU Athletics) (Photo: File / EWU Athletics)

by EWU Athletics

The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team got off to a great start in Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 31 with a road win at Sacramento State. But to continue it, the Eagles will have to get through both Montana and Montana State this Friday (Jan. 8) and Saturday (Jan. 9) in back-to-back games at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Both games will begin at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time.

Eastern enters Friday's game 7-6 overall and 1-0 in the Big Sky. Eastern defeated the Hornets 90-85 as four Eagles scored in double figures.

Despite losing four players and three starters from last season's Big Sky championship team, the Montana Grizzlies are looking to continue to be a force in the conference. The Grizzlies are 6-7 on the season and started 1-0 in conference play after a 73-67 victory over Weber State on Jan. 2. Montana is led in both scoring and rebounds by Sarah Ena, who is pouring in 11.1 points per game and is pulling down 5.8 boards per contest.

The Grizzlies feature a tough defense, holding opponents to an average of 60.7 points per game on 38 percent shooting from the field including 27 percent from three-point range. Montana also leads the conference in rebounds per game (36.5) and free throw percentage (74 percent).

"Montana is a youthful team this year and has spent much of the non-conference schedule growing into new roles," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "They are well coached and have a lot of talent, and it's obvious of late that they have started to play well together."

"We know coming in that they will rebound and defend," she added. "It will be important for us to be able to force the action on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively we need to be efficient and take and convert good shots."

The match-up with Montana State could end up being a high-scoring affair, as both the Eagles and the Bobcats are in the top half of the conference's scoring offense and field goal percentage statistical categories. The Bobcats shoot a Big Sky-leading 42.6 percent from the field and average 71 points per game.

The Bobcats have started 1-1 in the conference and are coming off a 77-73 overtime loss against Idaho State at home on Jan. 2. Montana State is 8-7 overall and is led by senior point guard Erica Perry, who leads the team in assists and steals while averaging nine points a game. Sarah Strand averages 13 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game, and Katie Bussey leads the Bobcats with a 13.6 scoring average.

"Montana State is one of the most experienced teams in the league and is led by an outstanding veteran point guard in Erica Perry," said Schuller. "They had a very successful non-conference slate and we expect them to carry that confidence over into Big Sky play. Montana State really pushes the tempo and our ability to defend in transition will be vital to our success."

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