Season Review: Cougars Record Seven-Game Improvement In 2000-01

July 25, 2001

Taking steps forward in the development of the Washington State women's basketball program was something coach Jenny Przekwas set out to achieve at the beginning of the 2000-01 season.And that's exactly what the team accomplished by the end of the year.

'We made a lot of progress,' Przekwas said of her team's 2000-01 season. 'We went far in the category of intensity and raised the level of play. We made a lot of strides in the right direction. We still have a long ways to go but now we know we have the foundation.'

The Cougars' 11 wins marked a seven-game improvement over the previous year and their six conference wins were five more than last year. In addition, WSU posted its most conference victories since the team recorded six triumphs during the 1997-98 campaign.

The seven-win improvement by the Cougars from the 1999-2000 season was the largest upturn by the team since an eight-win improvement from the 1993-94 season (8-19) to the 1994-95 campaign (16-11). In addition, the betterment of five conference wins was the most since the six-game improvement from the 1993-94 season to the 1994-95 campaign.

Encompassed in the 11 victories were noteworthy and historic achievements by the Cougars. Amongst these were:

-The Cougars split every conference home series and swept one.

-For the first time since the 1994-95 season, WSU notched two wins over a ranked opponent in the same season. The Cougars upset No.18 Oregon 67-64 at Pullman, Jan. 20 and defeated No. 22 Arizona 93-86, Feb. 10, also at Pullman.

-The conference season opening wins over USC and UCLA marked the first time since the 1991-92 season that the Cougars opened the conference season with two wins. The 79-78 win over USC Jan. 4 marked the first time WSU opened up the Pac-10 season with a victory since 1994. In addition, the January weekend sweep over USC and UCLA was the first time the Cougars swept the Los Angeles schools since 1995.

-In the 77-76 win over Oregon, Feb. 15, WSU rallied from a 16-point first half deficit, marking the second largest comeback in the history of the program. The largest comeback by the Cougars occurred Jan. 9, 1993 when WSU rallied from 18 points down to defeat Washington 75-72 in overtime at Seattle. The win at Oregon marked the fourth win of the season when the Cougars rallied from a double-digit point deficit to capture a win. Oregon happened to be the victim of Cougar rallies twice. At Pullman, Jan. 20, the Cougars were down by 10 to the Ducks in the second half before coming back for a 67-64 win. WSU has also rallied from double-digit deficits for wins against USC and Idaho. The 68-52 win over Idaho Dec. 2 tied for the fourth greatest comeback in WSU history. The Cougars were down by 13 to the Vandals early in the second half before rallying for the 16-point win.

-The season sweep over Oregon was the first time WSU swept a Pac-10 opponent since the 1997-98 season when the Cougars swept California. The Feb. 15 win over Oregon was the first road win over the Ducks since the 1992-93 season and snapped an 18-game Pac-10 road losing streak for WSU.

'We had some big wins, including the Top 25 triumphs and the sweep over Oregon,' said Przekwas. 'We won a game in every homestand and that was important.'

It wasn't as if the improvement of the team came against any pawns either, WSU played eight teams (George Washington, Vermont, BYU, Montana, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Stanford) that reached the 2000 NCAA Tournament during the course of the 2000-01 season. The Cougars finished the year 5-7 against those adversaries. Additionally, WSU also met six opponents (GWU, Toledo, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and Washington) that reached the 2001 dance.

Individually, members of the Cougars' made an impact on the school record books, Pac-10 conference, and the nation.

Leading the way was senior Katie Nyseth, a 2001 All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention selection. Nyseth finished the season second in the conference in assists (5.25/game) and assist to turnover ratio (1.96) as well as sixth in steals (2.18). Along with being the team leader in assists and steals, Nyseth finished the season on top in total points with 271 and tied in points per game (9.7). During the course of the season, she became only the second Cougar in the history of the women's basketball program to reach the 400 career assists mark. Darla Williamson (448 assists, 1989-92) is the only Cougar to rank ahead of Nyseth. The 147 assists recorded by Nyseth during the 2000-01 season was the fourth best single-season effort in school history. In addition, she finished seventh on the career list in steals with 189.

As impressive as Nyseth's accomplishments were on the court, it was what she achieved in the classroom that was most noteworthy.

Heading the list of Nyseth's academic honors was a selection as one of eight finalists (a list that included Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke from Florida State) for the Socrates Award.Nyseth's other honors include a Pac-10 All-Academic selection, a 2001 Verizon Academic All-District VIII Women's Basketball first team selection, Successful Farming Magazine's All-American Women's Basketball Farm Team second team honoree and a 2000 Rutgers University Coca-Cola Classic Scholar Athlete Award recipient.

Nyseth was not the only Cougar to gain a prominent place in the record books. There is no record position as foremost than first place and that's where Joanna Smith landed on the career three-point field goal list. With 143 career three-pointers, Smith staked her claim to the No. 1 position on the school's career three-point field goal list.

The senior broke the record in style at Oregon, Feb. 15. Smith entered the game tied for first on the list with Heather Norman at 133 career field goals. Her trey at the 17:03 mark of the second half gave her sole possession of the record. Smith did not stop there however, as she hit the game winning shot with five-tenths of a second left to give WSU the 77-76 win.

Other highlights the Cougars offered during the 2000-01 season include:

-The 1,231 who witnessed the Feb. 3 Washington-Washington State game was the largest crowd to witness a Cougar game during the 2000-01 season. In addition, it was the largest audience to attend a game since 1,350 observed the Cougars and the Huskies play Jan. 20, 1996.

-The 15-of-15 performance from the free throw line against Oregon Jan. 20 was the first perfect effort by the Cougars from the charity stripe since the Feb. 11, 1999 14-of-14 effort also against Oregon.
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