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

Without Charlisse Leger-Walker, how can Cougs compete? 

Star guard suffered season-ending knee injury, Cougar’s offense will not be the same 
Charlisse+Leger-Walker+during+the+pre-game+huddle+in+the+Cougs+first+game+following+her+season-ending+injury%2C+Feb.+2%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.+
BRANDON WILLMAN
Charlisse Leger-Walker during the pre-game huddle in the Cougs first game following her season-ending injury, Feb. 2, in Pullman, Wash.

When the Cougars took down the No. 2 ranked UCLA Bruins on Jan. 28, it was a bittersweet moment. Yes, WSU had just earned their best win of the season on the road, a win that could propel them into the AP Top 25 and into contention for their second straight Pac-12 title. But with that win came the loss of their leading scorer, senior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury

Since then, the Cougars have lost twice, both against ranked teams, both times falling apart offensively in the fourth quarter after playing well for the majority of the game. It begs the question, how can WSU get over this offensive slump and get back to their winning ways? 

The Cougs have underclassmen playing big roles. Freshmen Eleanora Villa and Jenna Villa (not related) have both played a huge role on offense for WSU this year. So has sophomore guard Astera Tuhina, who returned from over a month of injury on Feb. 2 versus Colorado. With Leger-Walker out, the Cougs only have two healthy seniors left on the team. The youth movement is exciting, but it can be daunting for a group of mostly first and second-year players to go up against elite teams like No. 6 Colorado, and elite players like Utah’s Alissa Pili, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year. 

 “Our first glimpse of our potential, with Charlisse not on the floor was (at Cal), not something we wanted then, and not something we want now,” head coach Kamie Ethridge said.”It’s an opportunity for every single player on our team to step in and have a bigger role.”

More playing time is exciting, but it also comes with more pressure.

As this team plays more together without Leger-Walker, they should become more comfortable moving the ball without her, and more confident in their abilities. Replacing her production is not easy, but WSU is loaded with talented young guards. 

“We just have to come together as a team,” said junior guard Tara Wallack. “Whose gonna step up and be a leader?” 

Another way the Cougs can improve offensively is by giving themselves more opportunities to score, by more efficiently rebounding the ball on offense to give themselves second chance opportunities. The Cougs have struggled all year with offensive rebounds, despite being one of the best teams in the Pac-12 at defensive rebounds. There’s no reason to think the Cougars can’t improve at rebounding on offense either because they are clearly physical and tall enough to do so. It’s all about being in the right position to secure the rebounds, which means being aware of where the ball is and knowing where you need to be to recover it. That’s something that more than anything else, comes with practice and experience. 

Something that is harder to practice is how to hold a lead. The Cougars led early in the third quarter against both the Buffaloes and Utes, but both games slipped away from them in the fourth quarter. In both games, it just felt like the team ran out of gas. They had opportunities to score, but were unable to make it happen, and they started trying to force things. On defense, the Cougars looked impatient in the fourth quarter, particularly against Utah. While the Utes meticulously moved the ball waiting for the perfect shot, often not even trying to shoot until there were only five seconds left on the shot clock, the Cougs started selling out for the steal, which opened up scoring opportunities for Utah. The Utes took advantage of WSU’s mistakes, and it allowed them to put the game away with about three minutes left. 

Most of these current struggles can be chalked up to the Cougars simply not being comfortable. Not comfortable without Charlise Leger-Walker on the court, not comfortable knowing what to do when leading a great team in the second half. Over time, these struggles will likely evaporate as the team gains more experience and momentum without their star. 

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About the Contributors
Levi is a sophomore broadcast news major from Tacoma, Washington. He loves the Seahawks, Mariners, Kraken and of course the Cougs.
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.