Cougars clash with No. 2 Cardinal

WSU women’s basketball play No. 2 Stanford at 7 p.m. Friday at Beasley Coliseum



The WSU women’s basketball team celebrates a 3-pointer during an NCAA basketball game against UCLA, Jan. 22.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

The Cougars are at the top of the world and trending in the right direction with the hopefully permanent return of Charlisse Leger-Walker.

Between mid-season team and individual honors and two high-profile ranked wins on the road, the Cougars (15-6, 5-5 Pac-12) hope to beat Stanford (21-2, 9-1 Pac-12) for the first time.

At 7 p.m. Friday at Beasley Coliseum, the Cougs will seek to beat Stanford for the first time. The Cougs are 0-71 all-time against the Cardinal.

This is both because of WSU women’s basketball being historically toward the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference and Stanford constantly being toward the top, especially in recent years in which the Cardinal have captured three National Championships (1990, 1992 and 2021) and  15 of the last 20 Pac-12 Conference Championships.

For the first time in program history, WSU women’s hoops have beaten two ranked opponents on the road. Both of these wins (over then-No. 21 Oregon 85-84 (OT) Jan 15 and then No. 19 now No. 22 Arizona Sunday, 70-59) contributed to the Cougar’s best start to their road schedule (8-1) in program history.

Head coach Kamie Ethridge’s success is getting national attention. With eight remaining games, she can exceed her previous season-high win total of 19, set in 2021–22.

On Monday, ESPN announced Ethridge as their NCAA Division-I Women’s Basketball Coach of the Week.

On Tuesday, Leger-Walker was named a finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for the second straight year.

The award is reserved for the all-around best player in women’s basketball. Leger-Walker joins UCLA’s Charisma Osborne as the only Pac-12 players on the list of 10.

The NCAA also named WSU women’s basketball as the team of the week after they swept the Arizona schools for the first time in 10 years.

The Cougs have not received a single vote in the AP Top 25. This does not bother the team, or at least they will not admit it.

“People don’t know that Charlisse is not with us for four games and we lose those and we’re just on the brink of kind of getting our whole group back together and getting full strength that nobody knows your situation,” Ethridge said.

Stanford is led by Cameron Brink. The 6-foot-4 junior led the Cardinal with 14.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per contest.

Senior Haley Jones is averaging 13.4 points, 9.2 rebounds as a long-tenured team leader for the Cardinal.

Stanford’s lineup is lethal. They have hung 70 or more points on 17 of their opponents and 60 or more points in 22 out of their 23 games.

The only time they scored less than 60 was in their 55-46 loss to USC.

“Stanford’s so unique because of the real size that they have in, you know, the 3, 4, 5 spot and the versatility they have so it’s been a big challenge for us in our pick and roll game to figure out how to create shots for ourselves,” Ethridge said.

If the Cougs want to beat Stanford in what would be the biggest win in program history, they will need to take care of the ball.

The Cougs are 15-2 with their intended starting lineup of Leger-Walker, Johanna Teder, Tara Wallack, Ula Motuga and Bella Murekatete.

Murekatete has stepped up as a legitimate scoring threat in 2023. On a day when Leger-Walker’s shots were not falling down, the center scored 18 points.

Wallack looked lost with Leger-Walker on the court but upon her return played a more confident brand of basketball.

“I think she’s one that really put pressure on herself to score when Charlisse wasn’t here and it didn’t work out well for us. I think that’s how easy it is to understand your role. And how you can still dominate a game if you just don’t focus on any one thing,” Ethridge said. “We’ve said all along if her 3-point shot could come along, she becomes kind of unguardable.”

Wallack has sunk 8-of-11 3-point shots since Jan. 13.

At 7 p.m. Friday at Beasley Coliseum, the Cougars will clash with the Cardinal looking to come away with a win over Stanford for the first time in program history.