KIERSTEN BUTTERWORTH | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
The Duel in the Desert came to a close Thursday for WSU women’s basketball as the Cougars defeated Wichita State 85-59 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Before the game, Head Coach Kamie Ethridge said for the team to win the players had to play with passion and energy and put pressure on Wichita State.
“If you let this team [Wichita State] have a lot of time and just walk if off and walk it to the wing, they’ll pick you apart and they’ll duck their head and they’ll get to the rim,” Ethridge said. “So we’re going to have to guard the ball better than we did [Wednesday] and we’re going to have to make the hustle plays.”
Wichita State (6-6) made the first field goal of the game, but the Cougars (5-6) went on a 7-0 run that was started by a three pointer from junior guard Chanelle Molina. The Cougars kept the lead until Wichita State tied it up late in the first quarter and took the lead by one. However, WSU fought back and led 19-16 after one quarter.
WSU finished the first quarter making 43.8 percent of its shots. The Cougars brought this momentum into the next quarter as they took control of the game and led 40-31 at halftime.
During the first half, senior guard Alexys Swedlund made five three pointers and led the team with 15 points. Molina added 13 points and redshirt junior forward Borislava Hristova led the Cougars with seven rebounds.
With under two minutes to play in the third quarter, Swedlund hit her seventh three pointer of the game to set a new career high in points. She would finish the game with 27 points and the Cougars led 64-45 heading into the final quarter of the game.
Ethridge said WSU needs to get Swedlund more shots if they want to continue to be successful on offense.
“If we can move the basketball and get rhythm, ball movement, get her in the right spots, I mean she is just money,” she said. “We just need her to be Swed like she is. Nobody shoots it like she does off of our team.”
The Cougars success continued in the fourth quarter as WSU easily took a 85-59 victory over the Shockers. Hristova finished the game with 27 points and 12 rebounds and Molina added 19 points along with 11 assists.
After the win, Ethridge said the Cougars were hard to defend because of the success of Swedlund, Hristova and Molina. The trio combined for 73 points in the game while the rest of the team scored 12 points.
After the Cougars won their last game before conference play, Ethridge said the competition ahead of the team will be more challenging.
“Wichita State let us do what we wanted to do,” she said. “They didn’t take too much away from us … this isn’t the kind of team we’re going to face in the Pac-12.”
The Cougars will open up conference play against in-state rival UW 2 p.m. Dec. 30 at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington. The game can also be seen live on Pac-12 Networks.