Washington State Cougars named team of the week by NCAA and USBWA
Last week we put Gonzaga in the spotlight since the Bulldogs have been (and still are) dominating in conference play, but it seems they aren’t the only team in eastern Washington on a tear.
On Tuesday, the Washington State Cougars were named the team of the week by the NCAA and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association after a 71-69 overtime victory over then-No. 7/10 Arizona on Sunday. The upset is the program’s first time defeating a top-10 team since beating No. 9/7 UCLA in 2017.
Here’s the icing on the Cougars’ cake: The win also earned WSU its first-ever ranking in this week’s AP top-25 poll (No. 25). The way things are going, the team could have its best season in school history.
More from NCAA
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, April 6: Stanford defeats Arizona in a tightly contested matchup to win the national title
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 30: UConn and Baylor deliver a classic battle of storied programs
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 26: Louisville and Texas A&M survive and advance
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 23: Highlights from the first round of the NCAA Tournament
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, March 16: Tournament bracket released
And this wasn’t WSU’s first notable match-up this season, either. They also nearly took down the Oregon Ducks back in December, losing only by four points.
Still not impressed?
That is the Cougars’ only loss so far this year. Games against Arizona State and Cal have been postponed, but otherwise WSU is 7-1 overall.
So what’s the ace up WSU’s sleeve? An argument can be made that it’s freshman phenom Charlisse Leger-Walker. In the upset win over Arizona the guard scored a team-best 17 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter to help make up a 16-point deficit in the second half.
Leger-Walker came in clutch at the end of regulation with a reverse layup that sent the Cougars and the Wildcats into overtime. Then, she managed to crank it up even more by sinking the game-winning bucket. On top of all that, Leger-Walker tacked on five assists and three steals to her stat line against Arizona.
That’s not to say she didn’t have plenty of help on the court, though. Sophomore post Bella Murekatete led WSU in scoring during regulation and ended up with 14 points and seven rebounds.
“We played amazingly as a team,” Leger-Walker said. “Everyone, whether they were on the court, off the court, had an impact on the game.”
Leger-Walker earned the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award for the third-straight week and the fourth time this season – a program record. Meanwhile, her older sister Krystal was nominated for the Pac-12 Player of the Week.
— #25 WSU Cougar Women’s 🏀 (@WSUCougarWBB) January 11, 2021
While Washington State head coach Kamie Ethridge believes they can make even more history this season, she recognizes the challenges that lay ahead for her team in what many say is one of the toughest conferences in the country.
“We realize however, that it’s fleeting if we don’t stay focused on today and the next great challenge before us,” Ethridge said. “It’s truly a great accomplishment for this program. This summer I pointed out that there are no banners hanging in our gym and I shared that we could be a team that accomplishes a lot of firsts.”
The Cougars will hit the road this Friday for four games, starting in Los Angeles against USC.
This Week’s Top Games to Watch
- No. 11 Arizona vs No. 10 Oregon: Thursday at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN
- No. 8 UCLA vs No. 25 Washington State: Sunday at 11 a.m. PT on Pac-12 Network
- No. 3 North Carolina State vs No. 2 Louisville: Sunday at 12 p.m. PT on ESPN (this is a big one – both teams are undefeated with a 10-0 record!)