Cougs lose in quarterfinals

Cougs end historic season in quarterfinals; lose 70-59



WSU guard Bella Murekatete (55) jumps over USC center Desiree Caldwell (24) for a layup during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Beasley Coliseum, Feb. 13.

DAYLON HICKS, Evergreen reporter

WSU women’s basketball was eliminated by No. 6 Utah, 70-59, in the 2022 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas.

The Cougars ended the season with a 19-10 record — the most wins by a WSU team in a single season in program history. Last matchup against the Utes, the Cougars lost a close one, 72-66. Ironically, the Cougars went 1-1 in Las Vegas last season, picking up a first-round win over No. 10 Utah, 57-48. 

The 2021-22 Pac-12 Co-Most Improved Player of the Year Bella Murekatete led the Cougars in scoring with 18 against the Utes. Her 18-point performance is the most points that she has scored in a game since her career-high 22-point outing against San Jose State in the season-opener. She shot 53.8% on the court, going 7-11 on field goals. Tara Wallack followed by scoring 16, a new career-high. She shot 60% on the court, going 6-10 on field goals in her first Pac-12 Tournament run.

WSU had trouble in the beginning of the matchup, allowing the Utes to shoot 57.1% in the first 20 minutes. WSU stayed resilient, limiting Utah to just 28.5% from the field in the final 20 minutes of play and going on a 12-0 run. Utah’s eight 3-pointers in the first half put the Cougars in a hole, as the Utes would go on a 15-0 run from that point to take a 16-point lead at the end of the first quarter. 

“I want to congratulate Utah on the win, I think they are playing incredible basketball,” Pac-12 Media Coach of the Year Kamie Ethridge said. “That first half was a tidal wave on us. They shot the ball from three and they are really hard to guard. They made us pay for every mistake that we made.” 

As a team, the Cougars shot 37.1% from the field, while Utah shot 42.1%. 

WSU’s costly mistakes allowed the Utes to get open shots and move the ball on offense, sending the Cougars into a frenzy. 

We made enough [mistakes] to put ourselves in a hole, obviously,” Ethridge said. “Giving up 45 points [in a half] is hard to come back from.”

The Cougars now wait to see if they secured a spot in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The resume for the Cougars this season ran deep, setting a program record for most wins in the NCAA era, winning a program-record 11 Pac-12 games and earning the best seed in the Pac-12 Tournament in program history.

The Cougars played the sixth-toughest schedule in the NCAA this season, according to ESPN’s Ratings. ESPN’s Charlie Creme predicted the Cougars to be one of the teams to be in the tournament. Now the Cougs wait to see if Creme is right.