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

‘We started the game with the wrong mindset’; WSU loses to Cal 66-59

Eleonora Villa scores 17, Cougs lose lead in second quarter
Tara Wallack driving in to the lane from the right wing, Feb. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

Eleonora Villa sent the first of her three free throw attempts into the air. The ball rattled off the rim, glazed the glass and plummeted off to the right. Gravity was not on the Cougars’ side.

WSU women’s basketball (15-9, 4-7 Pac-12) lost to the California Golden Bears (14-10, 4-8), 66-59 after Cal made nine 3-pointers and out-rebonded the Cougs 37-32.

The Cougs were close, but they were still incomplete without their on-court general Charlisse Leger-Walker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during WSU’s upset of No. 2 UCLA, Jan. 28 in Pauley Pavilion.

WSU guard Charlisse Leger-Walker yells from the bench during an NCAA women’s basketball game against Cal, Feb. 9, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

“I think we started the game with the wrong mindset,” junior guard Tara Wallack said.

The Cougs created open looks for themselves but missed the shots they had. They also failed to secure the ball as Cal out-rebounded the Cougs 22-14 in the first half.

Head coach Kamie Ethridge said the Cougs failed to play with the same energy they had last weekend in their first two games without Leger-Walker. WSU lost to Colorado and Utah, two top-25 teams, but held leads in the fourth quarter.

Friday, against Cal, the Cougs lost the lead in the first minute of the second quarter and never found it again.

“The challenge for us is that last weekend, I thought we had a lot more spirit, I thought we had a lot more fight. I thought the energy, probably even the preparation. It was just a more determined team,” Ethridge said.

Wallack said the Cougs needed to treat tonight like another top-25 matchup.

“So I think just comparing it to last weekend and how we had the mindset of, ‘Oh, we’re playing a top-five team,’” Wallack said. “Having that mindset going into each game will help us.”

Wazzu did not allow Cal’s second-leading scorer, Marta Suárez to score. The junior forward was 0-for-8 from the floor.

While Suárez did not score, her teammates did. The Golden Bears had four players score double-figures, including Ugonne Onyiah and McKayla Williams who paced Cal with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Williams shot four 3-pointers.

Cal began the first and second quarters with 7-0 runs.

Down 7-0 early, Wallack found the free throw line and made both shots. Fifth-year transfer forward Beyonce Bea grabbed an offensive board following freshman Astera Tuhina’s missed jumper and put up and in off the glass for the second chance points. The Golden Bears outscored WSU 11-6 in the second-chance points in their first matchup, Jan. 7 and they once again held the advantage with a 9-4 advantage in Pullman.

Beyonce Bea shooting a mid-range shot during the fourth quarter against Cal, Feb. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

Bea scored 10 points on a 55% clip with six rebounds, four assists and a block. It was the first time since WSU’s Jan. 14 Apple Cup win in Seattle, that the fifth year from Washougal, Washington posted double figures.

“I thought every shot she took was a quality shot. You know, I think that’s what you get with her. If you get her quality looks she’s going to be over 50%,” Ethridge said.

After falling behind 7-0, the Cougs put together a 14-3 run to end the quarter up 14-10. Senior center Bella Murekatete made moves in the post, Jenna Villa and Eleonora Villa cashed in with jumpers and Wallack and freshman Alex Covill made their money in the paint.

Covill scored 4 points and collected three rebounds, one block and one steal.

“[Covill] did a better job and again gonna just keep giving her minutes you know, everything is brand new to her,” Ethridge said.

Cal contained the Cougars to 9 points in the second quarter while dishing out 23. Williams made two threes each in the second and third quarter.

The Cougs gave the Golden Bears their fewest shots in the third quarter (13 vs. 14, 15 and 14 in the first, second and fourth quarters respectively). Murekatete protected the rim with three blocks. Although she collected her fourth personal foul with about eight minutes remaining, she returned late in the fourth to fuel the Cougars’ rally.

Murekatete scored 11 points on a 3-for-10 clip with four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.

Bella Murekatete spins and lays up from the right block, Feb. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

While the Cougs once trailed by 18 early in the fourth. Murekatete (two) and Covill (one) collected blocks Coug shot a game-best 61.5%.

Eleonora Villa wowed the fans who chose to stay with under-the-hoop layups in which she would run unscathed along the baseline and delver the behind-the-back layup.

WSU guard Eleonora Villa drives to the hoop past a Cal defender in an NCAA women’s basketball game, Feb. 9, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Her heroics, as well as the Cougars’ scrappy pull for the ball, kept them in it, however improbable a comeback, until the final minute.

That is where Eleonora Villa stood at the free throw line with three shots after she drew a foul from beyond the arc.

Basketball strategists in Beasly Coliseum might have devised a master strategy in which the Cougs, down by 8 with 34 seconds to go, could have scored five points on one possession, with two free throw makes an intentional miss, an offensive rebound and a 3-pointer to make it a one-score game.

This fantasy was dashed by gravity. Eleonora Villa missed the second attempt but made the third.

WSU trailed by 7 and there would be no miracle comeback. The Cougs found their offensive groove too late.

“We finally figured it out. Fourth quarter being more aggressive, like we said, finding shots so I think we just didn’t start as aggressive as we needed to,” Wallack said.

Wallack said the Cougs needed to approach Cal like a top-10 team. Wazzu welcomes another top 10 team, Sunday in the Stanford Cardinal, who fought for their lives in Seattle, beating the Huskies, 63-59 (OT).

“I’m a little disappointed in how I played and how I want to lead this team,” Wallack said. “Just going forward, just being more of a leader and if it’s not my night, or if I’m not making shots, I can still do the other little things like rebounding or playing good defense.”

Although it is Bea’s first year at WSU, she recognizes her vast experience and responsibility as one of the older players on the team. 

“I think we all need to improve on is just talking to each other, especially on defense tonight, like that’s something that really didn’t help us,” Bea said.

The Cougs have less than 48 hours to prepare for Stanford. Now on a three-game losing streak without Leger-Walker, Ethridge said the team needs to learn how to compete without Leger-Walker on the court.

“It’s gonna require what we have in the gym to step up and want the heat you know, want the pressure that’s on us and we’ve got to manage that better,” Ethridge said. “We’ve got to compete better. I just don’t think we competed for 40 minutes tonight.”

WSU hosts Stanford at 1 p.m. Sunday at Beasley Coliseum with a flagship Pac-12 Network audience.

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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.
EMMA DECASA, Evergreen photographer
Emma Decasa is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Originally from Issaquah, Washington, she is a junior majoring in Advertising, with a minor in Sports Communication. Emma started working for the Daily Evergreen in the fall of 2023.