Women’s hoops prepares for two southern California schools

WSU will face second top-10 ranked team in last two weeks

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ABIGAIL LINNENKOHL | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Guard Krystal Leger-Walker dribbles in front of defender.

DANIEL SHURR, Evergreen reporter

The WSU women’s basketball team is gearing up for a homestand this weekend, as they are set to host the LA schools, No. 5 UCLA and USC.

WSU (8-6, 6-6) will host the No. 5 UCLA Bruins (10-2, 8-2) at noon Friday, and then the USC Trojans (7-7, 5-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Cougars are coming off of back-to-back tough losses against the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal, both of which were at home on Friel Court.

“We just got beat by a really good team,” head coach Kamie Ethridge said. “We turned the ball over and let them dictate things a bit, we just got rattled.”

Now, the team looks to defend Beasley Coliseum against the UCLA Bruins, and move back over .500 in conference play.

WSU scored a mere 49 points against the Stanford Cardinal in both games at home, breaking the previous season-low of 50 points set two games earlier at Oregon.

To put it lightly, WSU struggled shooting the ball. Over the past six games, which the Cougars won only one, WSU shot well under 40 percent from the floor five times.

The team’s average points per game have dropped from 70 to 66 points, and now they only out-score their opponents by a total of eight points this year, 927-919.

Despite the disappointing stats, the Cougs always seem to find themselves with the ability to win the game as the final minutes tick off the clock. But the mistakes made earlier in the game inevitably hurt the Cougs, handing them their losses.

The players had hardships connecting on baskets this year. However, four of the starting five players have eclipsed 100 points overall this season.

Freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker leads the team in scoring with 251 points on the year, she also averages 17.9 points per game, third in the Pac-12.

Charlisse Leger-Walker also leads the Pac-12 in steals, and minutes played, making her a key part of the offense.

The UCLA Bruins are familiar with how important Leger-Walker is to the Cougar offense, as the last time the two schools faced off in Los Angeles, Charlisse dropped 18 points on the Bruins.

However, her impressive 18-point performance in the 68-66 UCLA overtime win was well overshadowed by Bruin’s sophomore Charisma Osborne.

Osborne put up 28 points in that one and is UCLA’s leading scorer with 232 points this season. She also averages 19.3 points per game, leading the Pac-12.

UCLA has another 200-point scorer, senior forward Michaela Onyenwere, who has 205 points this season.

The Bruins outscored their opponents 884-698 this season, and the high-flying offense averages 74 points per game. UCLA defense has been on top of things too, holding opponents to an average of under 60 points per game.

The team may be ranked fifth in the nation, but the Bruins have been in some very tight games.

UCLA pulled out a nail-biter against unranked Arizona State twice this season. Meanwhile, Arizona State’s rival, Arizona, triumphed over the Bruins by three.

UCLA couldn’t pull away from Oregon but hung on to a win by just two. The last time WSU and UCLA played, the Bruins capitalized off of the Cougars’ mistakes and won in overtime.

If the ball bounces in a different direction in any of those games, the Bruins may not be a top ten team.

The last time WSU played the Trojans, USC scored 81 points on the Cougs. which is the most points that WSU has allowed in a game all season.

WSU managed to put up 77 points of their own in the overtime loss.

Since that game, USC only played in three games, two of them resulting in losses, and the Trojans have not scored 60 points since the Jan. 15 win over WSU.

WSU at USC was another example of the Cougars having a late shot to win the game, and this time Ethridge looks to rewrite history.

WSU fought and clawed their way through the toughest conference in the nation, and after being projected to finish last in the conference, they still have a shot at a postseason appearance.

One thing is certain, this team may be down, but as seen multiple times this season, they are never out.

The UCLA game will tip-off at noon on Friday at Beasley Coliseum. The only fans in the stands will be made of cardboard, but the game will be broadcast for everyone on Pac-12 Network Washington or can be streamed on the Pac-12 website.