As the Zags come back to the Pacific Northwest after spending the holiday in Texas, the Bulldogs will be traveling just down the road to Cheney to take on the Eastern Washington Eagles at 9pm ET tonight that will be featured on SWX/ESPN+.
Heading into the season, the Eagles had high hopes as they were selected to be the Big Sky Preseason champions in the coaches poll, alongside Northern Arizona, and had two players selected to the Preseason All-Conference team in 5'9" guard Jamie Loera and 6'0" wing Jaydia Martin.
Gonzaga leads the all-time series against the Eagles at 35-13 and have won the lost 17 matchups between the two teams with the last defeat coming in 2004. Heading into this game, EWU are 4-1 with their only loss coming on the road against UC Irvine 63-71. On the season, Eastern looks pretty well rounded offensively as they rank 79th in 2PA and 91st in 3PA from which they shoot 48% and 31.6% respectively on their way to 72.0 ppg. The last meeting was back in 21-22
The team's leading scorer is sophomore guard Aaliyah Alexander with 16.8 ppg on 46.7% shooting including 45% from deep. While she's averaged 10 points or more since enrolling at Eastern, her numbers this year represent a notable jump in her FG% (40.6 last year) thats boosted by her three-point shooting (37.4% last season) so how she replicates these numbers against the Zags will be interesting to watch. While I haven't watched this team, judging by some of her advanced stats, I'm thinking she'll be attacking the rim primarily as her three point attempts have dropped slightly from last year while her two point attempts have jumped nearly 2 per game at this early juncture.
Jamie Loera falls just behind her with 13.8 ppg to go along with an impressive 5 apg and 2 spg. Given that she leads her team in minutes, tops the team in usage rate (24.3%) while leading her team in assists and field goal attempts, I expect for Jamie to be a consistent ball handler and threat on the offensive end and could be the key cog for this offense to stop.
Jaydia Martin does not look to be playing as significant role on this team as her Preseason Honors may have suggested given that she's not started a single game while playing about 18 minutes per game that she's translated into 7.3 ppg, albeit on 32.1% shooting that's dragged down by going 16.7% from deep. I haven't found any updates on her, but I suspect an off-season injury may be the culprit as she missed the first two games of the year.
As for the Zags, I'm interested to see if the grueling schedule of the Van Chancellor Classic is out of their system and if they can shake off the tough loss to Louisville similarly to how they did against Toledo after Wazzu. Let's have a discussion in the chat below about the game as it happens and GO ZAGS!