PULLMAN – They rallied back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter on a night in which surges of momentum were fleeting at best. They hadn’t shot well throughout Friday’s game, but sent it to overtime nonetheless on a gutsy 3-point attempt with 14 seconds left.
The Washington State Cougars did just enough to stay alive during regulation, and in the extra period, they did just enough to slip past their sloppy-shooting rivals from across the state.
After senior forward Ula Motuga’s clutch 3 extended WSU’s seesaw Pac-12 rivalry matchup against Washington, the Cougars held firm on defense and got an assist from the Huskies’ offensive struggles in a 60-56 victory Friday night at Beasley Coliseum.
The Cougs (12-6, 4-3) raced onto the court in front of a delighted crowd of 1,145 to celebrate their fourth straight win over the Huskies (5-8, 0-5). WSU moved to 6-1 in the Apple Cup series under fourth-year coach Kamie Ethridge.
“Rivalries are huge and records go out the window. Players play above what they should, and it’s awesome to win that game,” Ethridge said. “I’ve certainly got that spirit having been here now four years. I understand the importance of this game and it’s great to get a win against UW. Now regroup and try to do it again.”
WSU and UW meet again at noon on Sunday in Seattle.
The Cougars’ offense faltered in the first and third quarters, but a strong second quarter and a persistent stretch of play late overshadowed an overall uneven performance. WSU went 21 of 59 from the field and 6 of 19 from beyond the arc in what Motuga termed an “ugly” game.
UW hit just 36% of its attempts from the floor, but the Huskies’ most glaring issue was their foul shooting. They finished 6 of 21 from the free-throw line – a combined 2 of 9 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
WSU sophomore star Charlisse Leger-Walker found a rhythm after halftime and took over midway through the fourth quarter, scoring seven of her game-high 18 points (6 of 15) in the frame to spearhead the comeback from down nine. She wrestled with foul trouble and managed only three points in the first half, but lifted the Cougs down the stretch before fouling out with 23 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I just think it’s a game of runs and Charlisse kinda got serious and knew she had to step up,” Ethridge said. “Then you saw different players stepping up and giving us a chance to at least be in it and get to overtime.”
The elder Leger-Walker sister, Krystal, made perhaps the play of the night when she charged down the baseline and into the paint with the clock ticking under 20 seconds and the Cougars trailing 50-47, then spun out of traffic and flipped the ball to an open Motuga at the top of the arc.
“Just lucky Krystal has eyes in the back of her head,” Motuga said. “She found me on a really good pass and I was able to thankfully make that.”
Krystal Leger-Walker, who totaled 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting, scored her first points since the second quarter on a turnaround flip midway through overtime to inch WSU ahead. She iced the game with free throws.
“Don’t get distracted by the moment. Don’t get too hyped and don’t get too pressured,” she said. “This is most definitely a top-two moment for me. This was a great game and one I’ll remember for a while.”
A solid defensive effort from Bella Murekatete also highlighted the extra period, during which WSU shot 2 of 4 from the field and 6 of 6 from the foul line against 3 of 11 and 0 of 3 for UW.
The game featured 13 ties and 10 lead changes. Both teams started sluggishly but WSU controlled the second quarter, outscoring UW 14-2 over the final 8 minutes to fashion a 24-19 halftime lead. The Huskies quickly tempered the hosts’ momentum and went 9 of 15 from the field in the third while the Cougars were held to 28.6%.
“They made some unbelievable shots against pretty good defense,” Ethridge said. “They had us on the ropes as far as you could have us.”
Murekatete faced a stiff test in UW’s sizable frontcourt – headlined by 6-foot-9 standout Nancy Mulkey. Murekatete, a Post Falls product, finished with eight points (2 of 12), 10 boards and held Mulkey to five points despite a six-inch height disadvantage.
“She locked in and understood how she had to guard in the second half and overtime,” Ethridge said of Murekatete.
Guard Johanna Teder added 10 points for WSU.
Five Husky players scored six or more points apiece. UW outrebounded WSU 50-34.
Article Source: NBC Right Now