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A look back at the season that was for women’s basketball

Cougars had high hopes entering season but adversity affected their play

Sophomore+Guard+Johanna+Muzet+attempts+to+bypass+California+freshman+guard+Kianna+Smith+during+the+game+against+California+on+Feb.+23+at+Beasley+Coliseum.
Sophomore Guard Johanna Muzet attempts to bypass California freshman guard Kianna Smith during the game against California on Feb. 23 at Beasley Coliseum.

Sophomore Guard Johanna Muzet attempts to bypass California freshman guard Kianna Smith during the game against California on Feb. 23 at Beasley Coliseum.

GEORGE RODRIGUEZ | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

GEORGE RODRIGUEZ | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Sophomore Guard Johanna Muzet attempts to bypass California freshman guard Kianna Smith during the game against California on Feb. 23 at Beasley Coliseum.

AVERY COOPER, Evergreen reporter

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The buzzer sounded as WSU women’s basketball saw its season end after losing to University of Southern California in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament last week.

Interim Head Coach Mike Daugherty said it was similar to every other contest for the Cougars this season.

“Just another game that went down to the final minute,” Daugherty said. “We had 15 of those this year, we won two. But it was just another hard-fought game. We played good enough to be there at the end. They made the plays, we didn’t.”

In a season full of adversity, the Cougars struggled to win in conference play and posted a 10-20 record overall and 3-14 in conference play.

Junior center Maria Kostourkova said the Cougars’ success this season can’t be measured by the stat box, but by how they competed.

“I think this team played hard,” Kostourkova said. “You can’t say that we ever stopped playing hard and stopped giving everything we had at every practice and every game.”

The season started with high hopes after the Cougars reached the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament in the 2016-17 season.

In that season, three starters were hurt, including then-freshman guard Chanelle Molina, who suffered an ACL injury.

Other starters that suffered year-ending injuries were then-redshirt freshman forward Borislava Hristova and then-redshirt sophomore forward Louise Brown.

Daugherty said some of the players did not rebound from injury the way the team had hoped this season.

“I thought the kids coming back from year-long injuries didn’t come back as fast as we expected them to, and sometimes it takes that much time,” he said. “I expect them to progress and be way more ahead next year at this time.”

Despite the injury problems, WSU had experienced and tournament-tested players after the WNIT run. Many thought it would be enough for an NCAA tournament berth this season, Molina said.

“We didn’t perform to their expectations like everyone hoped, I wouldn’t say that’s okay,” Molina said. “But there was just so many things that went on with us as a team that happened to us. Just a lot of adversity. We can take a lot from that.”

Head Coach June Daugherty took a leave of absence in late January that left her husband, Mike, as the interim head coach. Her absence marked the beginning of the Pac-12 season for the Cougars.

“That’s our coach. That’s the person we look to, the motivator of our team,” Kostourkova said. “It’s never easy to lose the head coach. That is the most important person on the team.”

On top of losing June Daugherty for Pac-12 play, the team had to deal with the passing of David Lang, the director of strength and conditioning for the team, prior to senior night.

However, Mike Daugherty said the tough times the team faced this season will help them grow down the road.

“I thought no matter how much adversity … they came out and played hard,” he said. “You had tragedies, you had injuries, you had losing ends of games time after time where you’re one stop, one basket away. Just the fact that they went through that is going to make them stronger.”

Daugherty said the team allowed opponents to get to the free-throw line too often this season. In total, opponents scored 130 more points than the Cougars from the free-throw line this year.

Molina said no matter what happened this season, the team’s love of basketball showed.

“The passion is always consistent with us,” she said. “Always.”

 

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A look back at the season that was for women’s basketball