Cougs Advance to the Pac-12 Quarterfinals with a 57-48 win over Utah
LAS VEGAS – The No. 7-seeded Washington State women's basketball team had three players post double-digits in the scoring column on Wednesday, March, 3, as the Cougars collected a 57-48 win over No. 10 Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament.
With the win, the Cougars collect their first victory at the Pac-12 Tournament under head coach Kamie Ethridge. The last WSU win at the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament came back during the 2016-17 season. Washington State will now advance to the tournament's quarterfinals to take on No. 2-seed Arizona tomorrow evening at 5 p.m. PT.
Charlisse Leger-Walker, who was named the 2020-21 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on Monday, led the Cougars in scoring as she tallied 15 points. Sophomore Bella Murekatete posted her second double-double of the season, as she scored 13 points while pulling down team-best 12 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Redshirt senior Krystal Leger-Walker rounded out the trio of double-digit scores for WSU, as the guard tallied 12 points.
Washington State turned up the defensive pressure against the Utes in their first-round matchup, as the Cougars limited Utah to just 23.3 percent from the field. WSU was even stingier at allowing the 3-point field goals, as they limited the Utes to make just 5-of-22 (22.7%) from behind the arc. Conversely, the Cougs shot 33.3% from the field. Washington State used a dominating inside game against the Utes, as the Cougars scored 22 points inside the paint.
WSU trailed Utah, 17-16, after the first quarter, but scored the first 11 points of the stanza to take a 10-point lead at 27-17 with 3:55 left to play in the frame. The run was sparked by a trio of 3-point field goals from Charlisse Leger-Walker and sophomores Grace Sarver and Johanna Teder. The Utes battled back as they closed the second with a 6-0 spurt to cut the Cougar advantage to six points at the half, 27-23.
The Cougs came out of the locker room on fire, as they used another extended run to push their lead to a game-high 14-point lead at 37-23 heading into the third quarter media break. Utah would punch back, as it used a 16-7 run that extended into the fourth quarter to pull within three points at 44-41 with 6:15 left to play.
Washington State withstood the Utah blitz, as they responded with a 9-0 run to extend its lead back out to double-digits at 53-41 with less than three-and-a-half minute remaining in the game. Seven of the nine Coug points during the fourth-quarter run came at the free throw line. Washington State hit 15-of-17 of its charity tosses to post an 88.2 shooting percentage from the line.
The Cougars would limit the Utes to only one field goal over the final 5:44 of play, as they advance to the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals after posting a nine-point win.
Washington State will tip-off against No. 2 seed Arizona this Thursday, March 4. Tip-off against the Wildcats is set for 5 p.m. PT from the Michelob ULTRA Arena and will air live on the Pac-12 Network.
Head coach Kamie Ethridge on the victory: "I'm really thrilled for our team getting this win. You don't want to play anyone at (the Pac-12 Tournament) that you recently played. Utah played really hard and they had a great plan for us. I'm so happy for our team. It's the first time I've won here at the Pac-12 Tournament. It's a big step for us. We didn't play great offensively, but I thought we were good on the defensive end tonight. We had a bunch of different players make a lot of plays that ended up giving us some momentum. That's a big statement hat we have multiple players help us win tonight."
- Washington State advances to the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals for the sixth time in program history and the first time since the 2016-17 season
- WSU improves to 4-0 all-time in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 7 seed.
- The Cougars also improve to 5-3 all-time playing as the tournament's No. 7-seeded team.
- With six 3-point field goals tonight, WSU has now made at least five 3-point field goals in each of their last 14 games.
- Freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker collected her 20th game this season with 10-or-more points, which the seventh-most double-digit scoring games by a WSU freshman in program history.
- Sophomore Bella Murekatete posted her second double-double of the season with a 13-point, 12-rebound effort in the win. It is the third career double-double for the 6-3 center.