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Leger-Walker's Heroics Leads WSU to an Upset of No. 7/10 Arizona

Jan 10, 2021

Game Highlights | Kamie Ethridge Postgame | Charlisse Leger-Walker Postgame | Charlisse Leger-Walker Pac-12 Postgame | Boxscore

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State women's basketball freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker continued the blistering start to her WSU career Sunday, Jan. 10, against No. 7/10-ranked Arizona, as she connected on a left-handed layup in traffic to give the Cougars a 71-69 upset victory over the Wildcats in Beasley Coliseum.

Tied at 69-69 with 0:15 remaining in overtime, Washington State elected to keep the ball in Leger-Walker's hands. The freshman was able to get into the lane and fire-up a layup as the defense collapsed. Leger-Walker was unphased by the pressure, as she got off a shot that rolled around the rim and eventually fell in as the clock expired. The victory marks the first WSU win over a top-10 team since the 2016-17 season.

The freshman showed poised beyond her years down the stretch against the No. 7/10-ranked team in the nation, as she scored 10 of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Leger-Walker displayed how clutch she is in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, as her wrap-around layup at the end of regulation sent the game into the extra stanza.

Washington State improves to 7-1 overall on the year, while they move into second place in the Pac-12 with the win, standing at 5-1 in league play. The 5-1 mark in league games ties the program's best start in Pac-12 play. WSU previously went 5-1 to open the league portion its schedule during the 2013-14 season.

Today's win marks the second top-25 win for the Cougars this season. The last time WSU knocked off two ranked-opponents in the same season came during 2014-15 season, when Washington State picked up wins over No. 22/22 Dayton (Nov. 14; 76-60) and No. 10/8 Maryland (Nov. 29; 70-64).

Redshirt senior Krystal Leger-Walker and sophomore Bella Murekatete each scored 14 points against the Wildcats. The elder Leger-Walker barely missed out on a double-double, as she dished out a WSU career-high nine assists against the Wildcats. Meanwhile, Murekatete pulled down a team-best seven rebounds in the win.

Washington State got off the mat in the third quarter after a slow start to the afternoon against Arizona. WSU trailed by as many as 16 points on Sunday before the Cougars started to mount the comeback. The Cougs got a personal 7-0 run from Murekatete to close out the third quarter to pull within nine points, 53-44, heading into the final 10 minutes of play.

WSU scored the first four points of the final frame to pull within five at 53-48 with 8:25 left to play. After a pair of Arizona free throws extended the Wildcat lead back out to seven points, Washington State would use another 7-0 spurt to bring the Cougars to within a point at 56-55 with 3:13 remaining in regulation.

Junior Cherilyn Molina found a crease in the Wildcat defense and exploded to the basket for an uncontested layup to tie the game up at 57-57. Arizona responded and had the ball with a three-point lead at 60-57 with seven seconds remaining, but came up empty on two free throw shots to leave the door open for the Cougars. Trailing 60-58, Washington State drew up the perfect in-bounds play for the younger Leger-Walker out of a timeout, as the freshman hit a clutch reverse layup to force the game into overtime.

In the extra stanza, Washington State jumped out to a five-point lead after a 3-point field goal from Grace Sarver gave them 65-60 advantage. The Cougars were able to fend off the Wildcats for the majority of the overtime period, but a 4-0 run from Arizona's All-American Aari McDonald tied the game up at 69-all, setting the stage for Charlisse Leger-Walker's heroics.

The Cougar defense once again came to play on Sunday, as they limited the Wildcats to just a 37.7% field goal percentage, while they forced Arizona into 15 turnovers that led to 19 points for the Cougars. Offensively, Washington State connected on 42.9% of their shots, and made a blistering 65% (5-of-8) of their shots from the floor in overtime to mount the come-from-behind win.

Coug Quotes
Coach Ethridge on the Win: "It doesn't take a very smart coach at all to know to put the ball into Charlisse's hands. That was the plan, both at the end of regulation and at the end of the game. Overall, I couldn't be happier for our team. I'm so happy for the players that have been here and that have taken a lot of lumps. I see the progress they've been making and I just love this team. We got behind 16 points, but our team never got down (on themselves). We simplified a lot of what we were doing, made them guard us in space, and played downhill a little bit more. But again, I couldn't be happier for this team and for the future of this program."

Charlisse Leger-Walker on the Game-Winning Play: "This was an amazing game. It was pretty overwhelming (after the game). Those who know me, they know that I don't get too high or too low. But after I hit that shot, I was so hyped and everyone could tell. It was a great play that was drawn up to get the ball, the girls spaced the floor well. I'm just glad that (the team) had the trust in me to make a play."

Coug Notes
Washington State's 7-1 record to open the 2020-21 season marks the best start to a season for the Cougars since the 2015-16 season when WSU began the year 8-1.
At 5-1, Washington State is tied for its best start to Pac-12 play in program history. The Cougars last went 5-1 to open conference play back during the 2013-14 season.
Today's win over No. 7/10 Arizona gives the Cougars their first win over a top-10 team since Jan. 6, 2017, when WSU knocked off No. 9/7 UCLA in Beasley, 82-73.
It is also the program's sixth all-time win over a team ranked inside the top-10 of either the Associate Press Poll or the WBCA Coaches Poll.
Coming into the game at No. 7 in the AP Poll, Arizona is the highest-ranked team inside the AP Poll to lose to Washington State.
With 17 points in today's win, freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker extends her double-digit scoring streak to eight games to begin her WSU career.
Redshirt senior Krystal Leger-Walker's 14-point performance extends her double-digit scoring streak to three games.
The nine assists handed out today by Krystal Leger-Walker marks a new WSU career-high for the point guard.
Washington State held an opponent to 70-or-less points for the seventh time this season.
Sophomore Bella Murekatete's 14-point effort against Arizona marks the fourth time this season the center has scored double-digit points.
With seven rebounds, Bella Murekatete has now registered six-or-more rebounds for the seventh time this season.