Cougars split Rocky Mountain series

Freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 43 total points over two games



Sophomore center Bella Murekatete steps up for a jump shot over Utah’s freshman forward Kelsey Rees during the matchup against Stanford Sunday afternoon in Beasley Coliseum.

DANIEL SHURR, Evergreen reporter

The WSU women’s basketball team split their two games at home this weekend, as they lost to Colorado 60-57 on Friday and beat Utah 68-55 on Sunday.

On Friday, the Cougars took on the Colorado Buffaloes, who they beat earlier this season when they paid a visit to Boulder, Colorado.

On Sunday, WSU took on the Utah Utes. WSU defeated them earlier this season when the Cougs dropped a season-high 79 points on Jan. 1.

WSU won the opening tip-off against the Buffaloes, and junior forward Ula Motuga struck first, as the shot clock expired.

Seven-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week Charlisse Leger-Walker provided the game’s first triple, as she buried a three to help WSU jump out to an early lead.

Four of the WSU starting five scored in the first quarter, and sophomore guard Johanna Teder was responsible for nine of the 16 points that the Cougars put up in that frame.

Teder was also the only WSU player to score in the final three minutes of the quarter and was a perfect four-for-four from the floor.  However, after one quarter WSU trailed 17-16.

Charlisse Leger-Walker scored to open up the second quarter to give WSU the lead, which they quickly lost at the hands of a Colorado three.

A deep three by sophomore guard Grace Sarver in the latter half of the second quarter tied the game at 26. That was followed by a free-throw by sophomore center Bella Murekatete, giving the Cougs their first lead in over five minutes.

Colorado ended a three-minute scoring drought as the final minute of the half approached.

The second quarter ended with a missed three by Charlisse Leger-Walker, who hit double-digit points for the 17th time this season.

As the teams headed into the locker rooms, Colorado held a one-point lead, 30-29 over WSU.

Colorado struck first with a three-point play to open the second half, extending their lead to four. WSU went cold to open up the second half and didn’t score a field goal from the floor in over four minutes.

“I feel like we have digressed in the post,” head coach Kamie Ethridge said.

The Cougar defense kept WSU in the game, however, holding Colorado scoreless for three and a half minutes.

WSU’s four-minute scoring drought ended with a three-pointer by redshirt sophomore Michaela Jones.

WSU found themselves down 10 in the fourth quarter, and the Cougars needed another dramatic comeback.

The Cougs’ comeback got off to a bad start, at Teder collected her fifth foul, and was no longer eligible to play in the game.

A three by Charlisse Leger-Walker and a handful of free throws by Jones began to close the gap. Leger-Walker drained three free-throws, and in the blink of an eye, WSU was within one possession.

The Cougars were still down by two, but with three minutes left, the game was within reach.

Colorado eventually halted the 8-0 WSU run and made it a four-point game.

Leger-Walker collected her 20th point of the game with a handful of free throws to wipe out the Colorado bucket scored moments ago.

However, WSU was forced to foul in order to stay in the game, and the Cougs couldn’t complete the comeback, falling short, 60-57.

“We just aren’t scoring enough points to beat Pac-12 teams right now,” Ethridge said.

In the game against Utah, the visiting Utes scored the first points following an empty WSU possession to start the game.

Murekatete scored the first points for the Cougs to tie it up. Murekatete scored the next bucket for WSU, as well.

Ethridge’s main focus was to strengthen the post game, and that is exactly what she did to open up this contest.

The Cougars came out with a strong post game early, scoring the first three buckets from inside the paint. Charlisse Leger-Walker drained a three to give the Cougars a two-possession lead.

Despite coming up empty-handed on the first possession, WSU had a big 14-0 run and forced six Utah turnovers in the first quarter. That helped the Cougars jump out to a 26-15 lead as the first quarter expired.

“We have players who play unbelievably hard,” Ethridge said.

In the second quarter, momentum shifted, and Utah started connecting on more shots. In addition, WSU stopped connecting on theirs.

The inability to connect on shots has been the team’s downfall this season, and the Cougars suffered a five-minute scoring drought, missing seven baskets in a row. The drought ended with back-to-back buckets from Teder.

After scoring a season-best 26 points in the first quarter, WSU only mustered 13 in the second. However, Utah could not capitalize on the WSU scoring drought, and the Cougars carried a 39-24 lead going into the halftime break.

In the third quarter, the Cougs jumped out to their largest lead of the game, extending their advantage to a 20-point lead. The Cougar defense was playing strong, despite the offense struggling at times.

WSU cracked 50 points with a bucket by redshirt senior Krystal Leger-Walker.

Utah began to close the gap and heading into the fourth quarter it was all WSU, as the Cougars led 52-36.

The first time these two teams played, WSU had a large lead late in the fourth, and Utah managed to whittle it down to a two-possession game.

However, that would not be the case this time, and the Cougars snapped a four-game losing streak with a dominant 68-55 win over the Utah Utes.

Charlisse Leger-Walker led the team in scoring with 22 points. Teder and Murekatete joined her with double-digit scoring days, while Krystal Leger-Walker recorded eleven assists against Utah.

The Cougs will conclude regular season play against the Washington Huskies. Tip-off will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 28 in Beasley Coliseum.