2014 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament first round: WSU wins shoot-out over Oregon
SEATTLE – This is what a tournament game is all about. Running and gunning, shot-making, exciting action, plays that bring the crowd to its feet. Washington State's 107-100 win over Oregon on the opening day of the 2014 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament will be tough to beat for entertainment value the rest of this week.
The game was fun for the fans, without a doubt, but how did the players feel?
"It was extremely fun," said Washington State's Tia Presley, who missed the first two Pac-12 Tournaments of her career with injuries. "This is my first time playing in a Pac-12 Tournament. So with a crowd like that and team like Oregon, we expected a lot. We had a lot of fun out there."
Cougs coach June Daugherty also found some joy in the madness. "This is a fun game. If you can't get excited about women's basketball in the Pac-12 after seeing what just happened, then I don't know. You have to check your pulse."
Washington State next faces No. 2 Cal, Friday at 6 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks. But Thursday's action is worth savoring first.
Behind a raucous, pro-Cougar crowd, Washington State outgunned Oregon and set a tourney record along the way. Their 59 first-half points were the most ever in a half in the history of the Pac-12Tournament. The teams' 114 combined points over the first 20 minutes also was a tournament record. And what about that combined final score of 207? Yes, that was a new high too, eclipsing the previous mark of 179.
[Related video: WSU's Tia Presley after her first Pac-12 tourney game]
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, seeing as the Ducks led the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 93.3 points per game, and the Cougs were fourth at 73 points per game. In these teams’ two regular-season meetings the final scores were an 82-66 Oregon win in Eugene back in January and a 108-88 WSU win in Pullman last month.
This game was back and forth from the opening tip. The scored was knotted at 17 after just five minutes had gone by.
Tia Presley got the Cougs rolling, hitting five of her first six shots including two threes. Chrishae Rowe came off the bench smoking for the Ducks. She entered the game with the score tied at 10-10 with 16:46 left in the first half. After she hit her first four shots, three of them from downtown, the score was 30-26 in favor of Oregon with 11:57 remaining.
The halftime tally, 59-55 WSU, was almost the same as the final score of the previous game between USC and Arizona, 59-54.
Not even halftime could slow either team down. Oregon came out of the break still running, but the Cougs still didn't back down. Washington State was doing all they could to put away the Ducks, but every time they jumped out to a bit of a lead, Oregon answered.
Coach Daugherty, even though her team led for most of the second half, never was comfortable. "You look at the scoreboard and it's just blowing up," Daugherty said. "You're in triple digits and you know at any point, Chrishae or somebody is going to hit another three back-to-back or get a steal and rush you into something."
[Related video: Cougs' Lia Galdeira scores a season high in front of her parents]
Down seven with 13:48 to play, Oregon’s Katelyn Loper was fouled shooting a three. She made all of them to trim the lead to four.
Ariel Thomas’ jumper and the foul with 10:20 cut the lead to 78-76, but back-to-back triples from Taylor Edmondson and Presley restored the lead to eight.
Galdeira and Presley had all the answers and combined for 62 points (31 apiece), but it was Shalie Dheensaw’s baseline jumper with 47 seconds remaining that put the nail in Oregon’s coffin and gave WSU a 103-95 lead.
[Related video: June Daugherty on Washington State's win over Oregon]
This game was potentially Oregon coach Paul Westhead's last as a Duck. Earlier this week it was announced his contract won't be renewed after the season. The Ducks are eligible for the WNIT however, and the longtime coach says he plans to find another job somewhere eventually. "I'm a basketball coach," he said during a somber postgame press conference.
Daugherty, who has coached against Westhead for the last five seasons, said she is sad to see him leave the Conference. "What an honor and privilege it has been to coach against Paul and his tenure at Oregon," Daugherty said. "I've learned so much from him and admire him. I wish him and his staff all the best."
Jillian Alleyne capped off her fantastic sophomore season with 28 points and 21 rebounds for the Ducks and Rowe’s 29 points and five threes kept the Ducks in the game, but it wasn’t enough to outdo the high-flying Cougars. Alleyne's 21 boards pushed her season total to 476, setting the Pac-12 single-season rebounding record.