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

No. 23 Cougs leave no leftovers, beat RV Maryland 87-67 in Cancun

Leger-Walker tallies first career triple double, Murekatete captures program block record
Bella Murekatete and Charlisse Leger-Walker pose with fans after the Cougs season-opening win, Nov. 6, in Pullman, Wash.

Charlisse Leger-Walker has done many things in her storied WSU career. A triple-double was not one of them … until Turkey Day 2023.

The All-American senior scored 11 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 13 assists on Thanksgiving for her first career triple-double as part of WSU women’s basketball’s (6-0) 87-67 win over RV Maryland (2-3) in the opening game of the Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.

In the Cougars’ best overall performance of the young season, six out of eight WSU scorers finished in double figures. 

All-Pac-12 center Bella Murekatete led WSU in scoring for the fourth time in six games with 17 points. She was a force in the paint on both sides of the ball as she etched her name in the WSU record books with her fourth block of the day and 159th of her career, the WSU program record.

WSU scored a season-high 87 and held previously ranked Maryland to under 70. The Cougars can look at this nonconference win as a significant confidence booster with Pac-12 play looming on the horizon. However, things were not looking quite so savory in the first 10 minutes.

Maryland, who has struggled to shoot more than 40% against any of their four early-season opponents seemed to be stuffing their faces and leaving no seconds. The Terrapins shot 65% from the floor and made two-thirds of their 3-pointers to jump out to a 31-20 lead. 

In a game in which they fell behind 6-0 early on and by as many as 13, WSU shot a similar 62% in the first quarter, scoring each of their 20 points in the paint.

Leger-Walker’s wicked passes set up Murkatete and Idaho graduate transfer Beyonce Bea for the layups the Cougars’ needed to hang around with Maryland.

Freshman Eleonora Villa turned in yet another solid performance. The freshman from Italy scored 14 points by making two-thirds of her shots (6-of-9, 2-of-3 from three). Villa also benefited from Leger-Walker’s precise passes, catching a half-court pass from the star senior and cashing in right under Maryland’s nose to bring Wazzu within 8 points, eight minutes into the game.

In the second quarter, Maryland rebuilt their game-high 13-point lead off of a Riley Nelson jumper in the paint. That was enough for the Cougs, who trampled most Maryland offensive efforts, containing the Terrapins to just 8 points in 10 minutes while continuing to attack the paint and going on a 21-6 run. 

The Cougs engineered a 14-0 run over the next five minutes through a complete team effort.

Sophomore Astera Tuhina made her first 3-pointer of the game off of a pass from (who else?) Leger-Walker. Murekatete, Tara Wallack and Beyonce Bea made layups as Leger-Walker opened up the Cougars’ air attack with a 3-pointer. Tuhina did the honors on a layup to give Wazzu their first lead of the game with 4:05 left in the first half.

Maryland woke up from their Thanksgiving nap to tie the game twice in the final minutes of the first half, but Tuhina’s second 3-pointer of the quarter retook the Cougar lead and freshman Jenna Villa made two free throws to put the Cougs up 41-39 at the break.

The Cougars preserved the trend of the third quarter being Wazzu’s strongest offensive showcase as they got everyone involved.

Wallack turned in a double-digit performance thanks in part to her two 3-pointers to give herself 12 points, four assists, two blocks, a rebound and a steal.

Bea has gelled in the Cougar offense and turned in perhaps her best game of the year with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. The Idaho graduate transfer from Washougal shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor.

In the fourth quarter, WSU had their worst offensive quarter of the game, but not by much. Their 58% fourth-quarter shooting was the only quarter in which they did not shoot over 60% whereas Maryland started hot but returned to their young season norms of sub 40%.

Maryland’s losing record should not fool fans. With a tough early-season schedule, head coach Brenda Frese’s reigning Elite Eight squad fell by 38 points to No. 6 South Carolina and by 32 points to No. 8 UConn. Frese’s Terrapins have gone to each of the last 13 NCAA Tournaments and 19 of the last 21. 

With 48 votes in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, the most of any unranked team, they were effectively the No. 26 team in the nation

They returned six of their top eight scorers from last year, including junior guard Shyanne Sellers, who has her name on the Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List, reserved for the best point guard in the country.

The Cougs contained Sellers to just 9 points at a 3-for-10 shooting clip.

Former Flordia Gator Lavender Briggs paced Maryland with 18 points and seven rebounds. Briggs was on fire in the first quarter with 14 points. Once Wazzu found an answer for the star center, containing her to just 4 points the rest of the game, Wazzu pioneered the kind of comeback against a tournament team that tournament teams are made of.

The Cougars are 6-0 for the first time since 1978, one of six ranked teams in the Pac-12, making it the best women’s basketball conference in the country.

They will face plenty more ranked matchups this season, but this win against Maryland lays a firm foundation for what Ethridge’s staff and her team want to accomplish in 2023–24.

WSU will face UMass at 8 a.m. Friday and Green Bay at 10:30 a.m. Saturday each for the first time in program history to conclude the Cancun Challenge. FloHoops will broadcast both games.

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About the Contributors
SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor
Sam is a senior multimedia journalism major from Lacey, Washington and the sports editor for spring 2024. He was the sports editor for the 2022-23 school year and managing editor for the summer and fall 2023. He plays the trumpet in the Cougar Marching Band, loves sports and has worked at the Evergreen since fall 2021.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
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 the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.