Cougars host red-hot southern California, top ten UCLA

Cougs host Trojans at 7 p.m. Friday, Bruins at noon, Sunday



WSU guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (5) dribbles around UCLA guard Camryn Brown (35) during the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game, Feb. 11. 2022

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

The Cougs are hosting USC at the worst time, or perhaps the best time if they can capitalize off of the momentum gained in their biggest win of the season, an 85-84 overtime win over Oregon.

Unfortunately, USC (13-4, 3-3 Pac-12) is also fresh off of their biggest win of the whole Pac-12 season so far, a 55-46 edging of then No. 2, current No. 4 Stanford (17-2, 5-1)

The Cougs will hope to conquer the Trojans before facing the No. 9 UCLA Bruins (15-3, 4-2 Pac-12)

USC, like WSU, went 10-1 in nonconference play and has an identical 3-3 Pac-12 record.

Against Stanford, USC held the Cardinal to their season-low 46 points whereas their previous low was 60 against California.

Destiny Littleton scored 18 points against Stanford in a standup effort. She averages 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.

Rayah Marshall leads the Trojans as their star center. She averages 14.3 points and over 10 rebounds per game.

The three conference losses USC suffered were to UCLA (two one-score losses) and Oregon.

The transitive property does not exist in sports, particularly basketball. That is how USC can lose to Oregon by 28 whereas Wazzu can hang in and beat Oregon in overtime.

It also speaks to the impact of one player. Phillipina Kyei collided with a Cougar in the second quarter and did not return.

In 2021–22, Wazzu swept USC and beat UCLA in Pullman but lost in Los Angeles.

Leger-Walker was a huge factor in those games, particularly the UCLA win in which she scored 22 points with a 50% clip in the Cougars 66-65 win, which was vital to Wazzu’s NCAA Tournament bid.

Leger-Walker put in the work over the summer to make her already impressive play even more dazzling.

The junior guard spent much of the summer in Pullman working with the coaches on developing her jump shot and 3-point shot.

“She took all of these exact same shots a year ago or two years ago. It’s just she’s making all of those shots at a higher clip and I think that’s just because she committed herself to being here to work on her individual game,” head coach Kamie Ethridge said. “Defensively I think people are just now starting to realize she’s always been really good defensively.”

Charisma Osborne leads the Bruins in scoring and is fourth in the conference with over 17 points per game.

The Bruins’ offense is similar to Wazzu in that they run a great motion offense with a lot of cuts and options. Osborne is similar to Bella Murekatete in her total eye for the ball and high percentage of points in the paint.

Players to watch:

Charlisse Leger-Walker: There is never a game in which Cougar fans will not want to watch Leger-Walker who builds upon her legacy at Wazzu week in and week out. Leger-Walker played hero in the Cougars’ last meeting with the Bruins; expect the Pac-12’s leading scorer to do something pretty similar at some point this weekend.

Bella Murekatete: Murekatete is on a scoring tear. She averages over 14 points per game this season and a startling 17 points over the past five games since the Cougs began their continuous Pac-12 schedule.

Jessica Clarke: Clarke came alive against Oregon State and Oregon being the hero down the stretch against the Ducks as she scored 6 points in the five-minute overtime. Ethridge expects Clarke to join the rotation and play over 10 minutes again.

WSU women’s basketball hosts USC at 7 p.m. Friday and UCLA at noon Sunday in Beasley Coliseum.