Cougs hit Oregon trail in tough Pac-12 test

WSU women’s basketball plays Oregon State 7 p.m. Friday, Oregon noon, Sunday

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

With their half of the Apple Cup secured along with their first Pac-12 Conference win, the Cougs turn their attention to the Oregon schools, both formidable programs.

WSU women’s basketball (11-4, 1-3 Pac-12) has the privilege of playing in the best conference in college women’s basketball. In which teams were a combined 115-20 against teams outside of the conference, the best nonconference record of all-time for the Pac-12. 

Despite a slow start to Pac-12 play on paper, the Cougs have shown streaks of brilliance, especially considering they were without their best player, Charlisse Leger-Walker, for the first full weekend of conference play. 

Without Leger-Walker, the team fell behind by as much as 20 against the undefeated top-25 Utah Utes but worked their way to a tie within the final minutes of the game. With under 10 seconds remaining, Wazzu’s last-minute 3-point shot to tie the game again the final minutes bounced out and the game was all but over. 

Against Colorado, Kamie Ethridge described the team’s effort as playing through mud. Against Washington, the Cougs delivered a near-complete performance, starting fast with easy points in the paint, effective ball movement and a defense that kept UW off-balance enough for Wazzu to never trail after the first quarter.

The Cougs were firing on almost every cylinder. Their primary offensive struggle is perhaps the most important: ball security. In the Apple Cup, Wazzu turned the ball over 19 times leading to 14 UW points off turnovers.

With Leger-Walker back in the lineup, Wazzu is going places! She leads the Pac-12 in scoring (21.5 points per game) and scored a career-high 40 points in the Seattle edition of the Apple Cup and 26 points (22 of which were in the second half) in her return to the lineup Sunday also against the Huskies.

Leger-Walker is also second in the conference in assists per game (4.5) and second in 3-pointers made per game (2.9).

Bella Murekatete has made strides this season as she averages 14.1 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

WSU center Bella Murekatete looks for a pass during an NCAA women’s basketball game against Prairie View A&M, Nov. 13, 2022.

Oregon State (11-6, 2-3 Pac-12) is home to three players who are in the top five in the Pac-12 in several key categories.

Talia von Oelhoffen leads the Beavs and is fifth in the Pac-12 with 15.9 points per game.

Raegan Beers is fourth in the Pac-12 in rebounds (8.9) and Jelena Mitrovic is fifth in the Pac-12 in blocks (1.5).

The Beavers lost to their ranked rival Oregon but beat ranked UCLA proving that in the Pac-12, any team can win any game.

WSU’s all-time record against Oregon State is 33-59. In 2021-22, Wazzu won in Corvallis, Oregon, 77-75 in double overtime.

The Oregon Ducks’ (12-4, 3-2 Pac-12) biggest win is over No. 17 Arkansas. They have lost to No. 3 Ohio State, No. 10 UCLA and No. 15 Arizona but beat their inter-state rival Oregon State.

The Ducks are led by Phillipina Kyei who leads the Pac-12 in rebounds per game (12.1).

If the Cougs wish to join the coveted AP Top 25, they must beat double-digit win teams like Oregon State and the top 25 bubble dwellers like Oregon.

WSU has faced an uphill battle against Oregon with a 10-32 all-time record. In 2021-22, the Ducks beat Wazzu 58-50 in Eugene and destroyed the Cougs 83-30 in Pullman.

The Cougs will encounter the Oregon State Beavers at 7 p.m. Friday in Corvallis and will face the top 25 Oregon Ducks at noon Sunday in Eugene, Oregon.