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

Cougars send seniors off right, beat Oregon 71-61

Astera Tuhina (24 points), Eleonora Villa (20) score career-highs
Bella+Murekatete+celebrating+a+fourth+quarter+WSU+basket%2C+Feb.+25%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.
BRANDON WILLMAN
Bella Murekatete celebrating a fourth quarter WSU basket, Feb. 25, in Pullman, Wash.

Astera Tuhina wanted to win today.

The WSU sophomore from Kosovo and her teammates want to win every game, but Sunday was particularly important.

It was senior day. 

The last time that Bella Murekatete, Jessica Clarke and Beyonce Bea would play in Beasley Coliseum and potentially the last game of program legend Charlisse Leger-Walker and 3-point wizard Johanna Teder, and four-year veteran Ekin Celikdemir’s WSU careers.

“If it’s not for us, it’s going to be for them today,” Tuhina said.

WSU women’s basketball (17-11, 6-9 Pac-12) beat Oregon 71-61 Sunday at Beasley Coliseum. 

In a passing of the torch moment, AT and freshman Eleonora Villa paced the Cougars with 24 and 20 points respectively.

Tuhina hit 10-of-14 and 4-of-5 from deep with three rebounds and five assists.

Basketball fans could say she was “in the zone.”

“It feels great especially because we ended with a win,” Tuhina said. We moved the ball really good and we got great looks.”

BRANDON WILLMAN
Astera Tuhina guides the offense early in the final 10 minutes of play, Feb. 25, in Pullman, Wash.

Tuhina said Oregon’s defensive approach opened up a lot of opportunities for the guards rather than the posts, which helped Ele and her have such great individual performances.AT missed the month of January with a lower leg injury. Since returning to the court, she has regained her strength and comfort in the WSU offense. 

“Just an unbelievable game by her and I thought Ele was right behind her,” Head coach Kamie Ethridge said.

Ethridge said that AT’s big game is a sign that she is healthy and of great things to come for the sophomore point guard.

Ele tied her career-high from WSU’s 111-50 win over Texas A&M Commerce, Nov. 29 with 20 points. She made 7-of-17 shots and 2-of-7 3-pointers.

“I’m just happy that I did like this performance on the senior day because I wanted to support them and I think that there wasn’t a better way to end this day,” Eleonora said.

COLE QUINN
WSU guard Eleonora Villa looks for a pass during an NCAA women’s basketball game against Oregon, Feb. 25, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Fifth-year Beyonce Bea scored 10 points and added seven rebounds and two assists. Bea provided back-to-back buckets in the first quarter to spark the Cougar offense and continued to get solid looks with a 5-for-9 clip two days after she took one shot versus Oregon State.

Murekatete did not let her final game in Beasley go by without getting some buckets herself. The senior center who is the first Rwandan to play Division-I college basketball scored 6 points and corralled nine boards, two steals and dished out an assist.

With Bea and Murekatete’s steady presence inside, the Cougs stood up to a tall Oregon lineup which included 6-foot-8-inch tall center Phillipina Kyei and 6-foot-7-inch tall forward Kennedy Basham.

BRANDON WILLMAN
Beyonce Bea shooting a jump shot against Oregon in a 71-61 win, Feb. 25, in Pullman, Wash.

Kyei and Basham combined for 37 points, but the Ducks’ post-success could not match the heyday of Wazzu’s guard game, as AT and Ele combined for 44 points.

AT and Ele scored just 2 points apiece in the first quarter but preceded to sink six combined threes over the next 30 minutes. Freshman Jenna Villa got in on the fun as well with a towering 3-pointer to give the Cougs a 14-12 lead with 6:39 left in the second quarter.

The third quarter was when Wazzu shot the lights out of Beasley with 26 points.

AT sank two 3-pointers on her way to 8 third-quarter points Ele drained one to add 7 in the quarter and Bea (6), Wallack (5) and Murekatete (4) got the crowd cheering with each make.

BRANDON WILLMAN
Head coach Kamie Ethridge rallied the troops for a 71-61 win over Oregon on senior night, Feb. 25, in Pullman, Wash.

When the buzzer buzzed and the band played the final note of the fight song, WSU honored a six-player senior class that included Leger-Walker, Murekatete, Bea, Clarke, Teder, and Celikdemir.

COLE QUINN
WSU women’s basketball recognizes forward Beyonce Bea during senior night recognitions, Feb. 25, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Teder sat out the season with a lingering injury but dominated in her four-year playing career, particularly from beyond the arc.  

COLE QUINN
WSU women’s basketball recognizes guard Johanna Teder during senior night recognitions, Feb. 25, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Celikdemir was a 2020 recruit from Turkey who ended her playing days early but remained with the team in a support role.

COLE QUINN
WSU women’s basketball recognizes creative assistant Ekin Celikdemir during senior night recognitions, Feb. 25, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Murekatete and Leger-Walker’s program impacts are well documented. Murekatete leaves the program as the all-time leader in rebounds, blocks, games played and games started while Leger-Walker ranks in the top 10 in eight categories, including being third in scoring with 1,743 career points and second in made threes (199).

Tears were shed, hugs were given and Charlisse Leger-Walker gave a bittersweet thank you speech to the fans before Bella Murekatete led Cougar nation in the WSU fight song.

COLE QUINN
WSU center Bella Murekatete leads the singing of the WSU fight song during senior night recognitions, Feb. 25, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Ethridge had the chance to greet and hug each senior as well as their family members.

“They’re part of our family, my own family and I just feel as close to them as anybody,” Ethridge said. 

Despite a tough 2-6 stretch since Leger-Walker’s season-ending ACL injury, the Cougs control their destiny when it comes to postseason opportunities. With two ranked games to close out the regular season verus Colorado and Utah and the Pac-12 Tournament looming in Las Vegas, the Cougs could put themselves in great position for the postseason.

WSU meets No. 18 Utah, who just knocked off No. 7 USC, 74-68, at 2 p.m. Thursday. Fans can watch on the Pac-12 Network.

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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.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.