Battle for I-84 Cup

Written by Paul Harder, The Observer January 10, 2014 10:12 am

Kassy Larson (32) and the No.13 Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball team hosts rival College of Idaho at 5:30 p.m. tonight.
Kassy Larson (32) and the No.13 Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball team hosts rival College of Idaho at 5:30 p.m. tonight.
 

EOU hosts rival College of Idaho in season’s first meeting

With rivalry games, you never know what to expect. That uncertain air will take over Quinn Coliseum tonight when College of Idaho comes to town for the first meeting of the season.

“The I-84 cup isn’t something we really talk about anymore,” Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball coach Anji Weissenfluh said. “We know it’s a rivalry game.”

What makes this game so interesting is that the Yotes come into the game with a 7-7 record. One game that doesn’t show up in that number is a win against NCAA Division I Utah State — an exhibition game. College of Idaho won the game 86-81 in Logan, Utah, hitting what would be a school record 14 3-point shots. Still, the Yotes hold a 4-2 Cascade Collegiate Conference record. 

“I’ve said from the start of the season, they’re one of the most dangerous teams in the conference,” Weissenfluh said. “They had a couple of games that they didn’t shoot that well on the road. It happens.”

College of Idaho ranks fourth in the conference in shooting percentage, shooting at 42 percent mark, and second from behind the arc at a 33 percent clip. Erica Martinez leads the team with a 16.2 points per game average. Martinez is efficient from the field, making 48 percent of her shots. And, she can stretch the defense. The Boise State transfer is shooting 42 percent from behind the arc.

The one thing hurting the Yotes this season is the bench. The starting five account for nearly all the points scored for College of Idaho, even though the rotation is just two deep. Sienna Edmundson is the top scorer off the bench averaging 4.3 points per game in 22 minutes.

The Mountaineers enter the game after receiving a huge bump in the NAIA Division II polls, up to No. 13, a jump of 11 spots. EOU enters the game with a 14-4 overall record, and a perfect 6-0 mark in conference play. The opening weekend the Mountaineers knocked off then No. 17 Southern Oregon Friday and No. 14 Oregon Institute of Technology Saturday.

The Yotes, like most teams, will be trying to slow down senior Brittney Newcomb. The senior is averaging 23.8 points per game, third in the nation. 

“Teams try to figure a way to slow our guards down,” Weissenfluh said. “We know that’s going to happen, so we try to give Brittney and Nicole (Redd) different looks in practice. It’s about being prepared as possible.”

As a team, the Mountaineers are in the top 5 in three pointers made, and in the top 10 in total scoring offense.

Weissenfluh doesn’t mind team focusing on the perimeter, because that opens the paint for the posts. Madeline Laan, Kassy Larson, Nikki Osborne and Nyesha Joseph all work into the post rotation for EOU.

“It’s nice to have so many players that can be effective in the paint,” Weissenfluh said. “We want to work from the inside out, and all of can be effective.” 

If history is any indication, spectators at Quinn Coliseum will be in for a treat. Four of the last six meetings have been decided by four points or less, including a 69-68 win by the Mountaineers in the conference tournament last season. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.