The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Cougs zig the Zags in overtime, 77-72

WSU women’s hoops raises Pac-12 Championship banner, Leger-Walker’s 26 saves Wazzu from Zaga surge
The Pac-12 Champions 2022–23 women’s basketball team were honored ahead of the new team’s bout with Gonzaga, Nov. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

All the Cougs had to do was contain Gonzaga for six more seconds. Kaylynne Truong had other ideas as she sprinted down the court, paused briefly in front of Charlisse Leger-Walker and shimmied off to her right to shoot a 3-pointer from 26 feet out off the dribble. 

Game. tied. 67-67. Thanks to Truong’s shot, Beasley got five more minutes of basketball.

The Cougs lost a 10-point lead by being outscored 24-14 in the last six and a half minutes. Another team may have lost focus and folded in overtime.

However, the No. 24 WSU Cougars (2-0) buckled down in the five minutes of bonus basketball to beat Gonzaga (1-1) 77-72 (OT), Thursday at Beasley Coliseum.

“I mean, that was just really fun. I mean, that’s why you play basketball right? for the games like that. That was a crazy shot right at the end,” Leger-Walker said.

WSU head coach Kamie Ethridge said the Cougs made costly errors down the stretch, however, it did not cost them the game because of Leger-Walker’s leadership.

“I think it’s Charlisse again, I think she’s in the huddle going. ‘We got this.’” Ethridge said.

Leger-Walker modestly and honestly praised her teammates for stepping up when other teams may have folded.

“I think a lot of times that can be a big momentum shift for teams and I’m proud of how we came out and just stayed solid,” Leger-Walker said.

After scoring just 6 points and shooting 20% from the floor in Monday’s opener, the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer in 2022–23, returned to form. Leger-Walker scored 26 points, shot 42% from the floor (8-of-19) and was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free-throw line.

Charlisse Leger-Walker fades at the elbow during OT against Gonzaga, Nov. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

The All-Pac-12 senior surpassed Marcia Miles and Angie Miller for seventh on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,497 points in her collegiate career.

The Cougs fell behind 12-4 early through a series of questionable referee calls that visibly frustrated Ethridge.

However, the Cougs did not do themselves any favors either. They shot 46% from the floor and committed nine turnovers in the first quarter while Gonzaga shot a scathing 58.3% from the floor and scored over half of their points off of turnovers (10).

In the second quarter, Wazzu committed five more turnovers but limited Gonzaga to just 7 points. None of those points came off of Cougar turnovers.

Tuhina matched her career-high point total with 15 points (6-for-10), seven rebounds and two steals.

Ethridge said Tuhina had a phenomenal summer of preparation and has the complete package, including a mid-range jumper that “almost nobody has these days.”

Tuhina was at the center of the Cougars’ 6-0 43-second run midway through the second quarter. Leger-Walker hit up graduate transfer Beyonce Bea for crucial points in the paint which cut the Gonzaga lead to 4 points.

On Zaga’s ensuing inbound, Tuhina was the only one with her eye on the ball.

“I just saw her, she wasn’t looking and I was right there and I just went for the ball and it worked,” Tuhina said.

With the ball in her hands under the basket, Tuhina found Eleonora Villa for the bunny basket and the Cougs trailed by only two with five minutes left in the second quarter.

“I feel like that moment gave us like a really big heart and we just kept building up from there,” Tuhina said.

On the Cougars’ next possession, Tuhina missed a layup, but Bea picked up the rebound and got the ball to Tara Wallack who also missed the layup. Thankfully, Bea was still there and grabbed the rebound to put up the points herself.

Bea scored just 6 points but paced the Cougs with 11 rebounds.

Ethridge said she appreciates the even-keel personalities of the Cougs, including Leger-Walker, Tuhina and Eleonora Villa.

“They’re resilient. They’re okay with a little bit of failure and they’re not too emotional,” Ethridge said.

The Zags tested the Cougars’ resilience and then some, as the Trunong twins, Kaylynne and Kayleigh combined for 35 points with 22 and 13 respectively. 

After the Cougs contained Gonzaga in the second quarter, head coach Lisa Fortier’s team came out of the locker room with a different idea.

Ideas are worth nothing without action though, as the Cougars’ who under Ethridge have thrived in the third quarter, did exactly that. WSU shot 57% from the floor as Leger-Walker and Tuhina took the lead with 7 apiece.

The Cougs ended the third and began the fourth quarter with a four-and-a-half minute 11-0 run. Then Gonzaga staged their own 24-14 run to force overtime.

In the fourth quarter, the Zags outscored WSU 24-21. Gonzaga shot 38% from the floor, but the Cougs were worse shooting just 33%.

With six seconds remaining and a one-point lead, Leger-Walker made both free throws to give WSU what proved to be a very uncomfortable three-point lead as six seconds later, Kaylynne Truong fired off a shot that thrilled an entire lower bowl sections’ worth of Gonzaga fans who made the trip from Spokane.

Freshman Jenna Villa, who made all three of her 3-pointers Monday had what Ethridge called a tough night. However, the Arlington, Washington native earned an and-1 to snag three the old-fashioned way. She missed all three of her 3-pointers as her and-1 proved to be her only points of the night.

It was the other freshman Villa’s chance to show out though. Eleonora Villa scored a career-best 12 points with three steals, two assists and a block. Eleonora Villa scored her final two points in the final seconds of overtime as the icing on the cake of victory after Kaylynne Truong’s final attempt at hero ball rimmed out into the waiting arms of Bea. The Cougs played keepaway for the final 13 seconds as Tuhina found Eleonora Villa all alone under the basket.

Bella Murekatete scored 8 points after posting 18 Monday. She also led the team with five personal fouls.

Freshman Alex Covill played just six minutes but was 1-for-2 from both the floor and the free throw line. Leger-Walker and Ethridge praised Covill for stepping up in overtime.

The Cougs are thin at center to start the season as Jessica Clarke continues to heal from injury. Clarke provided an essential 10 minutes for WSU each game, particularly in the Pac-12 Tournament, making her early season absence a vulnerability for the Cougs.

Despite the Cougars’ shortcomings, they did enough down the stretch to win.

And perhaps the best part of the win was the banner hanging in the Beasley rafters for the first of countless nights to come.

Prior to the game, WSU received their Pac-12 Championship rings and raised the Championship banner. Last year’s seniors Ula Motuga, who remains in Pullman as a WSU graduate student and Grace Sarver were in attendance to celebrate along with the current team as the newcomers sat on the bench with grins on their faces.

Ula Motuga poses with her Pac-12 Championship Ring, Nov. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

“The banner is amazing,” Ethridge said. “I think it just gives our team a lot of confidence and maybe makes them feel good about what we’ve accomplished in this program. And clearly, this isn’t the end, they want this season to be better than it’s ever been.”

Charlisse Leger-Walker smiles at her Pac-12 Championship Ring, Nov. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

WSU concludes their three-game opening season homestand with a 2:30 game against Idaho State (1-0) at Beasley Coliseum. WSU will livestream the game.

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About the Contributors
SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen managing editor
Sam is a senior multimedia journalism major from Lacey, Washington and the managing editor for fall 2023. He was the sports editor for the 2022-23 school year. He plays the trumpet in the Cougar Marching Band, loves baseball and has worked at the Evergreen since fall 2021.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Editor-in-chief
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be EIC starting in summer 2023 and enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.