Women’s basketball set to tip off new season

WSU to host San Jose State, Northern Arizona in first week of action



WSU forward Ula Motuga (15) participates in the ZZU Mania skills challenge, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, in Bohler Gym in Pullman.

DAYLON HICKS, Evergreen reporter

To open the 2021-22 season, the WSU women’s basketball team is set to face San Jose State at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Northern Arizona at 2 p.m. Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

The Cougars had impressive exhibition games securing wins over Saint Martin’s and Northwest Nazarene. This is WSU’s fourth season under head coach Kamie Ethridge.

In Friday’s 113-46 win against Northwest Nazarene, the Cougars were as dynamic as they were dominant from the start of the game to the end. Four Cougars managed to score in double digits as Johanna Teder scored the most points with 20. Bella Murekatete secured a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. With 113 points, it was the most points scored by the Cougars under Ethridge. 

In season openers, the Cougars are 2-1 under Ethridge’s direction as they knocked off Washington, 60-52, in Seattle last season and defeated Pepperdine, 85-48, in Beasley Coliseum to open the 2019-20 campaign. The matchup between the Cougars and Spartans will mark the tenth meeting of the two programs.

WSU leads the Spartans as the Cougars are 6-3 and have won each of the last six games. The Cougars are also 5-1 all-time against the Spartans in Pullman. However, this will be the Cougars’ first matchup against Northern Arizona.

Under Ethridge, the Cougars were able to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament after winning 12 games last season. The Cougars as a team have more experience this year. They are the only school in the Pac-12 to return five players with 20 or more starts last season.

The team will be led by sophomore Charlisse Leger-Walker who led the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging a WSU first-year record of 18.8 points per game in 2020-21. She was recently named in the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watch list, which goes to the top shooting guard in the nation and Murekatete was named to the Lisa Leslie Award watch list, which goes to the top center in the country.

Murekatete is one out of three centers in the Pac-12 on the watch list with Stanford’s Francesca Belibi and Washington’s Nancy Mulkey. She has started 45 games in her career at Washington State and had an impressive season last year, finishing inside the top 10 of the Pac-12 in both total blocks and rebounds. Her 38 blocks last season tied her for the second-most in the Pac-12, while her 6.7 rebounds per game were the 10th-best average in the conference last season.

Charlisse’s sister, Krystal Leger-Walker was also a preseason All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection by the media. Last season, she led the Pac-12 in assists with 109 and her 4.5 assists per game average was third-best in the Pac-12.

Through experience and a successful campaign in the Pac-12 last season, she helped raise awareness for the Cougars at the national level. The Cougars have received votes in both the Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Top 25 polls. WSU picked up 13 votes in the WBCA Coaches Preseason Top 25 Poll, while earning nine votes in the AP preseason poll.

With returning to full capacity after having no fans last season, the first matchup between San Jose State will only cost $3. All guests 12 years of age and older attending games at Beasley Coliseum this season will need to provide proof of vaccination or proof of an FDA-approved negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of the event.

For Tuesday’s game, fans should plan on arriving early as the Cougars celebrate their accomplishment on reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1990-91 season. The Cougars earned an at-large bid into the big dance, where they were the No. 9 seed in the Mercado Region. WSU returns 11 of the 12 players on last season’s NCAA Tournament roster.