EWU women to face Montana State in Big Sky tournament on Wednesd - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

EWU women to face Montana State in Big Sky tournament on Wednesday

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The EWU women are seeking their first conference tournament championship since 1987. The EWU women are seeking their first conference tournament championship since 1987.

For the third time in four years, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will open Big Sky Tournament play against the Bobcats of Montana State.

The Eagles, who earned the No. 3-seed in the 2013 Championship, will take on No. 6-seed MSU on Wednesday (March 13) at 4:30 p.m. PDT/5:30 MDT in Missoula, Mont.

Eastern also faced the Bobcats in their initial game of the 2009-10 tournament, and played them again in the quarterfinals in 2010-11. In three postseason meetings, EWU holds a slight edge at 2-1.

The Eagles will come into Wednesday's contest riding a three-game winning streak, and having won 11 of their last 14. The Bobcats on the other hand have won only three of their last 11 games heading into the postseason.

MSU did win its first eight games in a row though to start the 2012-13 league season, including a 73-60 win over Eastern on Jan. 5 in Cheney. But the Eags repaid the favor when they took down MSU in Bozeman, 68-59, on Jan. 31.

"It's a one-game season, and we're not looking any further ahead than Wednesday against Montana State," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Montana State is really good basketball team. This is a team that beat Denver, Clemson and Colorado in the non-conference schedule, so we know they're going to be a tough opponent."

First and foremost as EWU prepares for the conference tournament, the team will look to refine its own game, on both ends of the floor.

"We are working on improving ourselves first, and making sure we are ready both mentally and physically," said Schuller. "Offensively, if we can move the ball, space the floor and kind of get that inside-out game going, I think we can be pretty good. We need to be able to share the ball and really play to each other's strengths because we really have a lot of players who are capable of doing different things. We will have to work hard defensively on every possession, and just make sure we are all on the same page on that end of the floor."

Once the Eagles are satisfied with what they're doing, they will turn attention to Montana State, whose biggest threat comes in the form of All-Big Sky second-team selection, Rachel Semansky.

"Montana State has great players, and I think it all starts with Rachel Semansky," said Schuller. "She is a hard, hard worker, who will get physical and demand the ball and shoot a high percentage. We have to do a great job of limiting her touches."

In the two regular-season meetings against Montana State, Semansky scored a combined 36 points on 67 percent shooting. On the year, the 6-0 center is averaging 12.8 points on a conference-leading 55.7 field goal percentage, as well as 7.2 rebounds per game, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals.

But according to Schuller, Semansky is by no means the only Bobcat who poses a threat.

"They [MSU] also have a great guard who hunts shots and does a great job getting to the free-throw line," said Schuller. "I also think [Ashley] Brumwell and [Latisha] Adams are both really dangerous players. They are athletic and can get in the lane to make some things happen that way. So really, we're just going to have to be great defensively."

In the two prior meetings, EWU held a slight edge in shooting percentage at 42.2, compared to 40 percent for the Bobcats. Eastern also shot 35.7 percent from three, compared to just 24.2 percent for Montana State. But that should come as no surprise, as EWU has proved to be the most efficient-shooting team in the league this year, ranking first in the Big Sky in field goal percentage, free-throw percentage and 3-point field goal percentage.

The Eagles also out-rebounded Montana State, 75-70, in the two games combined, while the assist totals were the same for both teams at 29.

The winner of Wednesday's quarterfinal matchup will take on the highest remaining seed from the other quarterfinal games, which include No. 2 Northern Colorado vs. No. 7 Southern Utah and No. 4 Idaho State vs. No. 5 Sacramento State. The lowest remaining seed from those games will face No. 1-seed and host, Montana.

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