Cougars split wins, losses over the break to start conference play


Sophomore Pinelopi Pavlopoulou shoots during a game against the University of Arizona in Beasley Coliseum, Friday, Jan. 8.

From staff reports

While the city of Pullman rested in anticipation for students to arrive to begin the spring semester, the Washington State Cougars women’s basketball team was out on the prowl, earning three wins against three losses over the break.

The Cougs (11-5, 2-3) wrapped up nonconference action with a victory at Kansas and kicked off conference play with wins over Colorado and Arizona and losses against Washington, Utah and No. 14 Arizona State.

The Cougars spent their first Sunday of the holiday break Dec. 20 out on a date with the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence where they came away with a 66-53 win in the vaunted Allen Fieldhouse.

Winning in a raucous environment, WSU was paced by efficient shooting from behind the arc- as the team shot 0.56 (9-16) from deep- and held KU to 6-25 (0.24) from the same mark. The Cougars also out-rebounded the Jayhawks 38-35.

Though WSU notched 43 rebounds to in-state rival Washington’s 32 in both team’s conference opener in Pullman Dec. 29 and tallied 32 bench points scored compared to the Huskies six, a lack of rhythm and consistency on offense undid the Cougs in their 79-64 loss. WSU had no answer for Husky junior and the NCAA’s leading scorer Kelsey Plum’s 33 points.

The Cougs rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit against the host Utah Utes Jan. 2 but were unable to erase a 41-28 midway score in their 73-71 defeat. A 27-16 third quarter run brought the team within two, but freshman forward Borislava Hristova’s potential game-winning 3-point shot at the fourth quarter buzzer clanged off the rim. Hristova, who leads the team in scoring with an average of 17.3 points scored per game, led all scorers with 23 points.

Better fortune awaited the team Jan. 4 in Boulder, however, as ninth-year Head Coach June Daugherty earned her 100th career victory with a 74-66 win over the Buffalos. In total, nine Cougar players scored in the game and the bench poured in 47 of the team’s points to help build and maintain a WSU lead that reached 15 points at the end of the third quarter.

It again proved to be a deep bench and stifling defense that enabled WSU to cruise to a 67-46 home victory over the Arizona Wildcats Friday. The Cougs forced 24 Wildcat turnovers, 17 of which were steals, and the bench players recorded 43 points to the starters 24. The win was the program’s first 21-point victory over a conference opponent since a 28-point win over Oregon in the 2011-2012 season. This was also the program’s largest margin of victory over Arizona before an 87-64 win in 1998.

The Cougs certainly were not intimidated by facing the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils Sunday, keeping the halftime score knotted at 24, but the ASU women pulled away in the second half for a 63-45 win on the Palouse. ASU outscored WSU 25-9 in the third frame to pull ahead for good in taking a 49-33 lead into the final period. WSU was bludgeoned down low, tallying just 29 rebounds to the Sun Devil’s 45, and went 2-16 (.125) from beyond the three point arc. Hristova again lead all Cougar scorers with 10 points.

Next up for the Cougs is an extended stay at home as the team will welcome the Southern California schools to Beasley Coliseum for a pair of conference games.

WSU will take on USC at 8 p.m Friday night and follow up with a noon tipoff against No. 15 UCLA Sunday. Both games will also be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.

Reporting by Braden Johnson