WSU women’s basketball to aim high against two top-25 opponents

Cougars to battle No. 25 Colorado Friday, No. 7 Utah Sunday



WSU guard Charlisse Leger-Walker looks to make a play during an NCAA basketball game against Stanford, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

The Cougs have been on the cusp of transforming their national perception from a good team to a great team practically all year. Against No. 25 Colorado and No. 7  Utah — two teams they lost to earlier in the season — they will have the chance to prove themselves as belonging to the upper echelon of teams in the Pac-12 Conference.

The Cougars have already beaten two Pac-12 opponents on the road (then No. 24, now unranked Oregon and then-No. 19 now No. 17 Arizona). If WSU women’s basketball (16-7, 6-6 Pac-12) can come back to Pullman with a win, the best part of the season could just be getting started.

The last time the Cougs faced these two schools, they played a phenomenal second half after a less-than-stellar first half but could not get over the hump.

They fell behind by as much as 20 points just before the half against Utah before the efforts of Bella Murekatete, Astera Tuhina, Ula Motuga, Grace Sarver and company willed the Cougs back into the game

In their 11-point loss to Colorado, the team lacked energy, head coach Kamie Ethridge said.

The Cougs were without their star player Charlisse Leger-Walker during both prior mountain school matchups.

One week after being named a finalist for the Ann Meyers-Drysdale Award given to the best shooting guard in basketball and being named to 2023 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Midseason Watch List, Leger-Walker is back with the team and fresh off an excellent 25-point performance against California.

“The Charlisse effect I think is real and I think it makes us a better team,” Ethridge said.

Leger-Walker will match up with two of the best players in the Pac-12 in Quay Miller and Alissa Pili.

Miller leads Colorado with 14.3 points per game. Last time against the Cougs, Miller scored 14 points with eight rebounds.

Jaylyn Sherrod leads the Pac-12 in assists (5.3) and steals (2.5) per game. Sherrod made seven assists last time in Pullman.

Frida Formann is fourth in the Pac-12 with 2.2 3-pointers per game. Formann shot 25% from the field and made one 3-pointer last time out against Wazzu.

The Utes were undefeated the last time they played the Cougs and have since lost games to No. 25 Colorado (77-67 Jan. 6) and to No. 2 Stanford 

Utah is led by one of the best players in the Pac-12, Pili, who is the current Pac-12 scoring leader per game (20.9 points per game).

The Cougars walk into the mountains playing their best basketball as could climb the mountain of the Pac-12 with even just one win over the weekend.

As the team has competed and grown even closer, Ethridge is impressed with her team’s focus and chemistry.

“Chemistry just seems to go hand in hand with some of this maturing and wanting to be a part of a university, a team,” Ethridge said.

The Cougs are close. Close as a unit and a group of friends and close to achieving things that WSU women’s hoops has never achieved before. Close to qualifying for a third-straight NCAA Tournament and close to making a real run in the Pac-12 Tournament March 1-5 in Las Vegas.

Before they can even think of the postseason, the Cougars have to win the game in front of them.

The Cougars will play the Colorado Buffaloes at 6 p.m. Friday at CU Events Center in Boulder, Colorado and broadcast by Pac-12 Washington and the Utah Utes at 11 a.m. Sunday at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City and broadcast by Pac-12 Mountain.