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

Cougar women end season in Indiana

AT scores 20, WSU sinks 10 threes, give ball away 18 times
Astera Tuhina dribbles and stares at the shot clock as the Cougs set up an offensive set, March 29, in Pullman, Wash.

With a chance to extend their season and qualify for the inaugural WBIT Final on the line, WSU women’s basketball (21-15) simply could not hang onto the ball.

WSU turned the ball over 18 times setting up the Fighting Illini of Illinois (18-15) to score 22 points off of turnovers and beat the Cougs 81-58 in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament semifinals at the Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, Monday night.

Wazzu’s inability to secure the ball haunted them early and often.

Illinois had the WSU defensive cheat codes from the start, foiling Wazzu’s best attempts to slow them down with 14 points in the paint and 8 points off of turnovers in the first quarter.

Sophomore guard Astera Tuhina dazzled as one of the lone bright spots for the Cougs. Tuhina drained an unreal 5-of-6 3-pointers, including two each in the first and fourth quarters on her way to 20 points on a 7-for-10 clip with 8 points in the first quarter. AT played all 40 minutes.

Despite the standout performance, Tuhina spoke in the postgame press conference about where WSU fell short.

“We didn’t really guard them well,” Tuhina said. “To beat teams like this we have to either guard them better or score more.”

Head coach Kamie Ethridge had a clear idea of what went wrong.

“Just a simple message, we got beat by a better team,” Ethridge said.

WSU never led and trailed for 37 minutes and 37 seconds after Illinois broke a 2-2 tie.

All-Pac-12 freshman Eleonora Villa scored 14 points with two 3-pointers. The rising star freshman from Italy turned in her 29th double-figure performance. She averaged 12.9 points on the season, the best points per game on the team by a player not named Charlisse Leger-Walker.

The Cougs had a decent outside attack 41.6% from deep, but struggled to generate offense and opportunity inside.

Senior center Bella Murkeatete, playing her final game in the Crimson and Gray scored 2 points on a 1-for-4 clip, four days after making one of the most iconic shots of her Cougar career, the go-ahead basket in WSU’s 63-61 WBIT quarterfinals win over Santa Clara.

Murekatete grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists, but lost the ball three times.

Eight of the nine Cougs to play turned the ball over at least once, with centers Murekatete and Jessica Clarke pacing the Cougs with three turnovers each.

Idaho transfer forward Beyonce Bea was the Cougs’ third-leading scorer with 6 points as WSU could not get much going outside of AT and Ele’s success.

The Cougs trailed by nine after the first quarter, 23-14. Eleonora Villa sunk a 3-pointer before the break to safe the Cougar deficit, shrinking it to 14 points after 20 minutes.

Illinois expanded its lead to 17 in the third quarter and won by 23 points. The Fighting Illini did not give up the fight.

Although the Cougars 2024 season came to an end, three more wins at Beasley Coliseum was a remarkable treat for the team because of the added practice time, developmental opportunities and chance to reach 20 wins for the second time in program history.

Ethridge signed a one-year extension, adding the 2029–30 season to her contract.

Leger-Walker entered the transfer portal and Bella and Bea finished their college careers, leaving Ethridge the task of finding three new starters, some of whom may already be with the program.

Illinois won the inaugural WBIT, beating Villanova 71-57. The Cougs finished the 2023–24 season 21-15.

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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.