Cougs can not get on Colorado’s mile-high level, lose at home 65-54

Cougs lose to Colorado 65-54, turn ball over 17 times


Dean Hare, WSU Photo Services

Grace Sarver looks toward the basket while surrounded by Colorado players in an NCAA women’s basketball game in Pullman, Jan 1.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

On Sunday, following the David-like response to a Goliath opponent in Utah that came up short, 71-66, Wazzu could not replicate such an effort against a team that Utah had beaten by nearly 20 points the previous month.

Charlisse Leger-Walker remained in her home country of New Zealand dealing with a family issue. Without their team leader, the leading scorer in the Pac-12, the Cougars appeared sluggish and could not keep pace with the Buffs.

After a contested first quarter which featured a slew of lead changes, Colorado built a lead that would prove to be insurmountable for the Cougs.

WSU shot better than Colorado (45% – 42%), but Colorado built their 11-point advantage on 25 points off of turnovers and 16-second chance points. WSU turned the ball over 17 times and got only seven second-chance points.

“Just disappointed in our effort. I just felt that from the very beginning of the game, it felt like we were playing in mud,” head coach Kamie Ethridge said. “We just don’t reproduce that kind of energy that we had on Friday night and this is what you get. A sluggish performance, and an undisciplined performance. We got beat by a more disciplined team and certainly more physical team. ”

Aaronette Vonleh led the Buffs in scoring with 20 points along with six rebounds, two blocks and one steal, followed by University of Washington transfer Quay Miller, who scored 14 points along with eight rebounds and one steal.

With Leger-Walker absent, it was Bella Murekatete who led Wazzu with 15 points, three rebounds, one block and one steal in a 7-for-15 shooting day.

Tara Wallack was the only other Coug to score in double digits on Sunday as she scored 13 points with three rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal. She was 4-for-8 from the floor and 4-for-6 from the free-throw line.

The Cougs’ best shooter by average shot 50% from the field  (4-for-8) but did not take as many shots as she usually does, thanks in part to the Cougs’ 17 turnovers which cut off their offensive efforts.

Astera Tuhina and Johanna Teder scored 8 points each. Motuga scored 7 points but led the team in rebounds with eight.

After the Utah game, Motuga credited the Cougs commitment to rebounding the ball, which helped them close the gap in their loss on Friday. On Sunday, Motuga was the only player to get more than three rebounds.

“Our problems are still our problems. Our individual tendencies, our lack of growing as a player, our lack of competitiveness, our lack of, honestly, respect for the game and what it required today,” Ethridge said. “A player coming back doesn’t fix that; the player in that locker room [has] to fix that. The individual player has to fix that, and clearly I as a coach have to fix that.”

WSU has a whole week to prepare to host their cross-state rival the UW Huskies. WSU lost the Seattle edition of the Apple Cup 82-66, and that was with Leger-Walker scoring a career-high 40 points.

UW is coming off of a winless weekend against the mountain schools as they lost to Colorado Friday 64-56 and held Utah to a season-low 61 points but still lost 61-53.

WSU will hope to have Leger-Walker back in time for the Apple Cup but will play UW regardless at noon Sunday at Beasley Coliseum.