Women's Basketball Ends its Magical 2020-2021 Season at the NCAA Tournament
AUSTIN, Texas -- The 2020-21 Washington State women's basketball season ended on one of the biggest stages in college basketball, as the No. 9-seed Cougars fell to No. 8-seed South Florida, 57-53, in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Sunday, March 21.
Washington State erased a nine-point half time deficit in the third quarter, as the two squads went into the fourth quarter knotted up at 45-all. The Cougars took a one-point lead at 53-52 with 1:47 remaining in the games after a 3-point field goal from 2021 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Charlisse Leger-Walker. Unfortunately for the Cougs, that would be the final WSU basket in an historic 2020-21 season that saw the program make a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 30 years.
The Cougs end their season at an even 12-12 after falling to the Bulls in what was the first NCAA Tournament for Washington State in 10,966 days. It marks only the seventh time in program history that WSU has finished a season at .500-or-better in the NCAA era.
The younger Leger-Walker paced the way for Washington State with an 18-point performance against South Florida. The guard from Waikato, New Zealand filled up the stat sheet in her first NCAA Tournament game, as she also pulled down five rebounds and dished out a team-high four assists.
Sophomore Johanna Teder followed Leger-Walker in the scoring ledger with 16-point performance. The guard from Estonia nailed a team-high four 3-point field goals against the Bulls. As a team, Washington State made eight 3-point field goals to extend its streak of games with five-or-more 3-point field goals to 16-straight contests. South Florida made life hard for the Cougars in the paint, as USF outscored WSU, 28-12 in the paint. Junior Ula Motuga and sophomore Bella Murekatete each pulled down a team-best eight rebounds in their first career NCAA Tournament contest.
Washington State shot 30.9 percent from the field, while South Florida connected on 37.9 percent of its shots. The Cougars were effective at the line on Sunday, as they made 11 of its 12 charity tosses.
The Cougars opened the game with back-to-back 3-point field goals from Teder and senior Krystal Leger-Walker. Washington State led the entire way during the first 10 minutes of action, and took a 15-13 advantage into the second stanza. South Florida went on a 19-6 run to open the second frame and take a double-digit lead over the Cougars at 32-22 with 3:07 remaining in the half. WSU managed to cut its deficit to seven points thanks to a personal 5-0 run by Charlisse Leger-Walker late the second, but USF connected on a jump shot right before the buzzer to take a 38-29 lead into the halftime break.
Washington State came out of the locker room swinging, as it went on a 12-1 run to take a two-point lead at 41-39. The run was capped-off by Teder, who drilled back-to-back 3-point field goals. The two teams traded buckets to close out the third, as they were deadlock at 45-all going into the decisive fourth quarter.
South Florida jumped out to a five-point lead with 4:02 remaining in the game, but Washington State responded with a pair of 3-point field goals from Teder and the younger Leger-Walker sister to take a 53-52 advantage with 1:47 remaining. South Florida ended the game by scoring five consecutive points to hand WSU a four-point, season-ending defeat.
Coach Ethridge on Tonight's Result
"I want to congratulation South Florida. Jose did a fantastic job and I thought USF had a special second quarter and we couldn't get a handle on them. I loved our fight and loved our spirit, it's just what we have been all year. We had a great third quarter to put us in a position to be in another close game against a high-quality opponent. I think in every sense of the word, we gave ourselves a chance to win a close game. They made a couple of more game-winning plays than us and we didn't make enough shots tonight to get us a win, but I'm very proud of our team."
- Washington State played in its first NCAA Tournament game since March 13, 1991.
- The No. 9-seed is the highest seed WSU has earned in the NCAA Tournament in Program History.
- Charlisse Leger-Walker led the Cougs in scoring for the 22nd time this season.
- Leger-Walker's 18 points marked her 17th game this season with 15-or-more points.
- Johanna Teder's 16-point performance marked her fourth double-digit scoring game this season.