WSU women’s basketball celebrates seniors with 67-57 win over Oregon State

Motuga winningest player in WSU history



The WSU women’s basketball team sings “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain while celebrating a 67-57 victory over Oregon State, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

Lyrics to Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” filled Beasley Coliseum as Charlisse Leger-Walker, Bella Murekatete, Ula Motuga and each member of the WSU women’s basketball team gathered at the center of the court to sing and dance their hearts away after beating Oregon State on Senior Day.

It was a familiar feeling for the Cougs who with their 18th win Sunday tied the 1990–91 team for the second-most single-season wins in program history and who listen to Twain’s melody on an almost daily basis.

WSU women’s basketball team dances to “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” by Shania Twain after winning an NCAA women’s basketball game against Oregon State, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars  (18-9, 8-8 Pac-12) left hardly any doubt as they beat the Oregon State Beavers (11-16, 3-13 Pac-12) 67-57 on Senior Day Sunday at Beasley Coliseum.

The celebratory dance Cougar fans were treated to was an epitome of the team culture the lady Cougs have built, Leger-Walker said.

“We love hyping each other up and that’s kind of like our song,” Leger-Walker said. “I’m glad everyone’s picked up on that. Now, they’ve played it a couple of times after games, and it’s really fun.”

After briefly trailing early in the game and seeing their lead be as small as 2 points in the third quarter, the Cougs stood tall down the stretch thanks to some smart plays and timely shooting.

On her Senior Day, Motuga played hero for the Cougs capturing a decisive offensive rebound in the final minutes of the game to keep the Beavers at bay.

Motuga finished the day with 7 points including one 3-pointer, five rebounds and four steals. She was 2-for-2 in her final two attempts from the Beasley free-throw line, smiling before each shot like Cougar fans have seen her do for the past five years.

With her five rebounds, Motuga moved into eighth in program history in rebounds with 651 and her 62nd career win makes her the winningest student-athlete in WSU history.

“Can you tell coach E that, because she thinks I don’t rebound,” Motuga said after the game as Leger-Walker laughed.

WSU forward Ula Motuga hugs WSU women’s basketball head coach Kamie Ethridge while leaving the court during her last game in Beasley Coliseum, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

In her postgame press conference, head coach Kamie Ethridge had nothing but good things to say about Motuga who was one of the first players she recruited to come to WSU after Motuga was initially interested in playing for Ethridge at her previous job at Northern Colorado University.

WSU forward Ula Motuga celebrates after winning an NCAA women’s basketball game against Oregon State, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

“She’s kind of an X factor for us. If she scores. It’s just such a bonus. She’s always gonna be on the court because of her IQ and all the ways that she can help us win without scoring. She is a unique player and I think she’s someone that really worries opponents,” Ethridge said. “She’s such a rock star on and off the court in the locker room.”

However, the Beavers got more of their players involved than the last time out versus Wazzu in Corvallis, Oregon. On Jan. 13, only Bendu Yeaney scored in the double digits with 11 points whereas, on Sunday, Yeaney was held to 8 points as Timea Gardiner paced Oregon State with 17 points and Raegan Beers was close behind with a double-double–15 points and 10 rebounds.

WSU forward Ula Motuga passes the ball to guard Charlisse Leger-Walker during an NCAA basketball game against Oregon State, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

A more involved offense across the board kept Oregon State in this one just like last time and paved the way for several scoring runs including a 7-0 run to end the second quarter to trail by just 4 points at the halftime break.

The Beavers got as close as 2 points in the second half but the Cougars promptly responded with a 9-0 run over the next three minutes comprised of a Murekatete layup, two Tara Wallack jumpers and a Johanna Teder 3-pointer. The Beavers responded with a 9-6 run but the Cougs were still up 8 with 10 minutes to play.

WSU guard Tara Wallack goes to shoot a 3-pointer during an NCAA women’s basketball game against Oregon State, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Both the Cougs and the Beavs shot the best in the third quarter with eight makes apiece Oregon State held the slight advantage of 53% to 50% from the field in the third.

The Cougs had a lot of great looks but missed more than they made. They shot 37% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc.

Prior to the game, WSU recognized their three graduating seniors Motuga, Grace Sarver and Emma Nankervis.

WSU center Emma Nankervis hugs WSU guard Johanna Teder while celebrating senior night before an NCAA women’s basketball game against Oregon State, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash

“They committed to our vision, not anything that we had done,” Ethridge said. “They walked into a situation that was hard their first couple of years.  They saw some maybe spotty leadership their first couple of years and did not buy into that.  These three seniors deserve so much credit for what we’ve become.”

The Cougs will play their final two regular-season games of the season in Los Angles where they will face UCLA at 6 p.m. Thursday and USC at noon Saturday.