Cougars lose out in Arizona

Freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 48 combined points in the two games



Bella Murekatete completes a lay-up against Stanford defense during the game on Jan. 29 at Beasley Coliseum.

DANIEL SHURR, Evergreen reporter

The WSU women’s basketball team took a trip through the desert this weekend, as the team hit the road to take on the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Tip-off against the Wildcats was on Friday, Feb. 12. This marked the second time WSU played Arizona this season. The first matchup was in Pullman and resulted in a 71-69 WSU victory.

Arizona dropped three spots in the national rankings since that last matchup, and this time was hoping to defend their home court against the Cougs.

Arizona started out on the right track, forcing an early WSU turnover and drawing a foul for two free-throws.

Junior forward Ula Motuga put the Cougs’ first points on the board, but a lack of ball control resulted in the third WSU turnover in just three minutes and a 7-2 Arizona lead.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t handle the ball,” head coach Kamie Ethridge said. “We couldn’t handle their pressure.”

However, momentum quickly shifted and sparked an 8-0 Cougar run. Within a minute, WSU went from being down two possessions to owning a three-point lead.

The Wildcats kept the Cougars on their toes, and after a quarter of play WSU hung on to a 19-18 lead.

WSU opened up the first quarter with a two-pointer from Motuga, and Arizona soon followed with a two of their own.

A coast-to-coast drive by All-American Wildcat Aari McDonald gave Arizona their first lead since the first quarter.

Arizona extended their lead as the final minutes of the half ticked away, and at the halftime break, Arizona led 39-31.

After a high scoring first half in Tucson, Arizona, freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker hit her third bucket of the game, tying her sister Krystal with nine points on the day.

The WSU defense stepped up by denying 11 straight Arizona baskets. But the Cougars couldn’t capitalize on the scoring drought, and instead of taking the lead, the Cougs shot one of seven during that three-minute stretch.

As the fourth quarter approached, WSU found themselves in yet another close game, with a 44-42 Wildcat lead.

Arizona drained a three to start the final quarter of play, and with a seven-point lead, the Wildcats started to pull away.

The Cougars struggled to finish, and by the end of the game, the score was 60-51. The Wildcats collected their fifth straight win.

“[Arizona] had fifteen steals, and I don’t think I’ve ever really heard of that in a game,” Ethridge said.

Following the sloppy loss to the Wildcats, WSU traveled north to Tempe, Arizona, to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils for the first time this season.

The Sun Devils were scheduled to pay the Cougs a visit in Pullman on Jan. 8, but the game was postponed, making this the first time the teams have faced off this season.

Both schools were on the lookout to avenge a loss in their previous games, as WSU fell to Arizona just hours after Arizona State lost to Washington.

The Cougs won the tip-off, and they struck first with a Charlisse Leger-Walker two-pointer.  Arizona struck back with a three-pointer to take the lead.

The first quarter was very back and forth, and neither team could keep a lead for more than a few seconds.

However, Arizona State held the Cougars scoreless for a small period and built up a two-possession lead.

Three-pointers on back-to-back possessions by both Charlisse and Motuga gave WSU a breath of momentum, as well as the lead.

Charlisse Leger-Walker had 10 of WSU’s 15 points in the first quarter, and after a back and forth period, WSU led 15-13.

Leger-Walker missed her first basket of the game to open up the second quarter, but sophomore center Emma Nankervis was there to clean up the missed bucket.

The miss sparked a scoring drought for both schools that lasted more than three minutes, but a physical putback by Motuga broke the silence and the Cougar’s drought.

WSU had two players with double-digit points as halftime approached: Charlisse Leger-Walker and Ula Motuga. However, that wasn’t enough to give them the lead, and after the first half, Arizona led 32-27.

Arizona State only scored 35 points in their previous contest against Washington but seemed to be finding more success against WSU.

The Cougars scored the first four points of the second half and cut the Arizona State lead to one.

The WSU momentum came to a halt, and the Sun Devils almost immediately regained their lead, extending it even further into double-digits.

The third quarter came to an end with a 51-36 Sun Devil lead.

The Cougar offense connected on only one bucket over the last eight minutes of the third quarter and went 0-7 from the floor to close out the period.

Charlisse Leger-Walker eclipsed 20 points in a game once more, but the rest of the Cougars’ offense was fairly quiet in the second half.

Regardless, in typical Cougar fashion, WSU came back from their heavy deficit and found themselves with an opportunity to win the game in the final minutes.

The Cougars pressured Arizona State heavily in the fourth quarter, and with one minute left, both teams were drawing fouls left and right. The Cougs found themselves down by three with sixty seconds left.

However, fouls by the Cougars would push Arizona State’s lead back to two possessions. The Cougars couldn’t complete their comeback, and WSU lost their final road game of the regular season 67-61.

“They rebounded the ball better than us, and we turned the ball over,” Ethridge said. “I thought [this] was winnable for us.”

The loss against Arizona State is how the Cougars will end their travel season, but the team still has three more games left to play.

The last three games for the Cougs will be in Beasley Coliseum, and their next matchup is against the Colorado Buffaloes at noon on Feb. 19. The game can be streamed on the Pac-12 website.