Cougs head to city of Angels for final two regular season games

Cougs looking to lock up NCAA at-large bid with solid showing


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

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

Two ranked Pac-12 schools stand between the 2022–23 WSU women’s basketball team and history.

The Cougs (18-9, 8-8 Pac-12) have been checking off program firsts all season long. They completed the program’s largest comeback, beating Portland after trailing by 19 points and with 18 wins are tied with the 1990–91 team, the program’s first NCAA Tournament team, for the second-most wins in the NCAA era (since 1982).

The Cougs will encounter No. 17 UCLA (21-7, 10-6 Pac-12) at 6 p.m. Thursday and No. 25 USC (19-8, 9-7 Pac-12) at noon Saturday.

As a road team in the final week of the regular season, the Cougs will encounter a lot of emotion as they play UCLA and USC on their respective senior weekends.

Last weekend, WSU recognized Ula Motuga, Grace Sarver and Emma Nankervis on Senior Day. Head coach Kamie Ethridge praised each of them for making WSU women’s basketball as successful as it is today through their spirit and dedication.

The Cougs begin a long road trip Wednesday as they will travel directly from Los Angles to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament.

The travel procedures WSU has used all year long will be the same procedures they use on the extended trip the Cougs hope will last much longer than one week.

March 1 will be WSU’s first Pac-12 Tournament game in a win-or-go-home situation.

Fifth-year Motuga, fresh off an emotional senior weekend in which she played her final game at Beasley Coliseum with her family visiting from Australia, is on the cusp of history of her own.

When she steps on the court Thursday for her 129th game, Motgua will tie Sage Romberg (2012–14) for WSU’s all-time games played record. She also has logged 3,651 career minutes, the second most played in program history behind WSU’s all-time leading scorer Borislava Hristova (3,960 career minutes).

Charlisse Leger-Walker is 10 points away from rising on WSU’s all-time scoring list. With 10 points, she will pass Chanelle Molina (1,364; 2016–20) for the ninth most in program history.

UCLA boasts a formidable lineup the most talented of which is Charisma Osborne, who is sixth in the Pac-12 with 15.2 points per game.

The last time the Cougs faced the LA schools, Leger-Walker was attending to a family matter in New Zealand. Even without their star guard, the Cougs hung tight with both USC and UCLA, losing by no more than 7 points.

On Jan. 22, the Cougs held Osborne to 10 points — 5 points below her season average.

While the Cougs may have contained Osborne, they allowed their bigs to shoot from beyond the arc.

“They have a lot of weapons and they have a lot of different people that can hurt you and on any given night, you know, sometimes the people you don’t expect are the ones that hurt you,” Ethridge said.

Ethridge said WSU aspires to be like UCLA with each player a legitimate scoring threat against stout Pac-12 competition.

Freshman Astera Tuhina had a career game against UCLA, scoring a career-high 15 points versus the Bruins.

Tuhina, or AT, has grown into her role as co-director of the offense alongside Leger-Walker.

AT created some unbelievable scoring opportunities for her teammates with her smooth passing.

“AT’s just solid. She knows what we’ve tried to do on offense. She’s thinking ahead,” Ethridge said.

USC presents a similarly lethal lineup. Kadi Sissoko is the fifth-best scorer in the Pac-12 at 15.4 points per game. Rayah Marshall is the 14th-best scorer with 13.2 points per game.

Wazzu would tie their program-best single-season win total from last season (19) with one more win and would set a new program record of 20 by winning both games.

The Cougs are 8-3 in true road games but UCLA is 12-2 at home and USC is 13-2 at home. UCLA’s two home losses were to No. 3 Stanford and No. 14 Arizona whereas USC’s two home losses are to UCLA and Arizona.

The Cougs will play the UCLA Bruins at 6 p.m. Thursday and the USC Trojans at noon Saturday. Both games will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network with Thursday’s game on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Saturday’s game on Pac-12 Washington.