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

WSU hits rock bottom, begins to climb out of canyon in Grand Canyon state

Cougars lose by 19 in Tuscon, win by 27 in Tempe
Eleonora+Villa+looking+for+a+lane+to+make+a+pass+to+Bella+Murekatete+in+the+post%2C+Feb.+2%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.+
BRANDON WILLMAN
Eleonora Villa looking for a lane to make a pass to Bella Murekatete in the post, Feb. 2, in Pullman, Wash.

It’s always darkest, just before the dawn.

That was WSU women’s basketball’s weekend in a nutshell.

WSU (16-11, 5-9 Pac-12) lost 64-45 to the Arizona Wildcats (14-12, 6-8) Friday night at the McKale Center.

The Cougs beat Arizona in round one 78-57 Jan. 21 in Pullman. It proved to be team leader Charlisse Leger-Walker’s final home game of her senior season (and perhaps her WSU career). She delivered a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.

Although her senior season was off to a quiet start in which she did not make a single 3-point shot in December and saw her 3-point percentage dip to 18% in January, she was looking good, if not great at exactly the right time.

In WSU’s 85-82 upset of No. 2 UCLA Jan 28 in Pauley Pavilion, the kid from Waikato, New Zealand had 17 points in 19 minutes on the floor in what head coach Kamie Ethridge described as her best form of the season.

Leger-Walker left the game with an ACL injury in the third quarter. The Cougs weathered a 29-point UCLA fourth quarter to hold onto the lead and beat the Bruins 85-82.

Entering Friday, the Cougs were 0-8 without Leger-Walker on the floor, losing four times in 2023 and each of the four games without Leger-Walker. All eight losses occurred at home.

As WSU hit the road to play without Leger-Walker for the first time in the CLW-era, the Cougs knew that their hopes of returning to a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament depended on their ability to beat teams below them in the Pac-12 standings.

Unfortunately, Arizona had nothing to lose and played like it.

The Wildcats held the Cougars to 11 or fewer points in three of their four quarters and scored 21 and 23 respectively in the first and third quarters.

Leger-Walker and the Cougs held Arizona fifth-year Helena Pueyo to 6 points on a 3-for-10 clip in Pullman. Without Leger-Walker in the lineup, Pueyo scored 18 points at a remarkably efficient 8-for-10 clip. Pueyo tortured the Cougars with five steals to control the Cougar offense.

Freshman Eleonora Villa was the lone bright spot for the Cougar offense. She scored 16 points on a 50% clip (6-for-12) with one 3-pointer, one assist and one steal in her 10th straight double-digit game.

“I didn’t see anything good the entire night other than Ele,” Ethridge said in her postgame radio show.

Senior center Bella Murekatete logged 24 minutes on the floor in which she tallied 8 points, seven rebounds a block and a steal.

Only seven Cougars made a basket Friday night and six scored eight or fewer. Fifth-year Beyonce Bea made 1-of-7 shots and freshman Alex Covill turned in 5 points. WSU could not get its post-game into play or hold onto the ball, being outclassed by the Wildcats 40-26 in the paint and 18-6 in points off of turnovers.

Although WSU held the Wildcats to 8 points in the fourth quarter, the deficit was too great to overcome. Arizona controlled the ball and eliminated Eleonora Villa from scoring any points in the fourth quarter.

“We were leaderless and we don’t have enough ball-handling against that kind of pressure quite frankly,” Ethridge said.

The Cougars looked night and day different Sunday. Party because of ASU’s lack of talent compared to Arizona and partly because of the Cougars’ execution.

Wallack had a career-best 23-point performance Sunday, Eleonora Villa scored 17 and Beyonce Bea turned in a double-double. The Cougars blocked nine Sun Devil shots.

This kind of scoring distribution and standup defense helped the Cougars secure a 27-point win, their first without Leger-Walker in the lineup since she joined the team.

“We hadn’t played well enough, we hadn’t competed well enough, we hadn’t demanded as much as we needed to out of ourselves at times,” Ethridge said.

WSU returns to Pullman for one final home weekend. WSU will celebrate an elite senior class that includes three-time All-American and Ann Meyers Drysdale Award nominees and Bella Murekatete, the program leader in rebounds, blocks, games played and games started.

Tara Wallack said the Cougars were still learning to play without Leger-Walker following WSU’s loss to Cal, Feb. 9.

Friday may have been the wake-up call they needed and Sunday was an encouraging step in the right direction. With five days to prepare (and no school Monday), WSU women’s basketball will need to tackle No. 11 Oregon State and Oregon, with the ample focus and preparation that this senior class deserves.

Basketball fans can witness the Pac-2’s finest battle at 7 p.m. Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

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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 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.