From Pullman – The Washington State women’s basketball team (13-9, 4-7) lost a heart breaking game to the Oregon Ducks (11-11, 4-7) that came down to a last second drive and shot by Lia Galdeira that didn’t fall on Friday night. Oregon dominated the game in the first half because Jillian Alleyne was pretty much unstoppable in the paint. But the Ducks offensive attack was ground to a halt when the Cougars shut down Alleyne in the paint.
Junior forward Mariah Cooks pulled down a rebound after Drea Toler missed her second free throw, Toler missed both, and got the ball into Galdeira’s hands. The junior guard raced down the court, made contact with two Oregon defenders, and fired off a shot; there was no whistle by the officials, and the shot fell into Jordan Loera’s hands as time expired. It wasn’t the best decision to try and draw the foul there, considering the officials had let a fairly physical style of play go throughout the game.
Throughout the second half, WSU would go on a 4-0 or 6-0 run to tie the game and then Oregon would respond by hitting a key three pointer to regain the lead. Most of those three-point shots were taken when the defense would collapse towards the paint, leaving Lexi Petersen, Lexi Bando, or Katelyn Loper open on the wings — those three accounted for seven of Oregon’s three-point attempts.
Washington State was able to overcome a seven point halftime deficit to get back into the game. Cooks’ improvement from the first to the second half was the biggest difference maker in the game; as the junior guard helped shut down Alleyne and cripple the Ducks’ offensive attack.
Cooks was paired with true freshmen Louise Brown as they were forced to guard Alleyne. Both were constantly getting behind the junior from Fontana, Calif. and the Ducks were able to feed her the ball consistently under the hoop; as a result Alleyne scored 16 points in the first half. WSU head coach June Daugherty asked her two forwards to adjust how they were playing Alleyene at halftime.
“We asked our post players to get a bit more behind, so that when she did catch it we were between her and the basket. And the double could come over the top a bit quicker.” Daugherty said.
The Cougars two post players were clearly listening as Alleyne scored only four points in the second half. And it was a major reason that Washington State was able to get back into this ball game.
Cooks’ defensive improvement was great, but her development into a scoring threat in the second half made a huge difference for the Cougar offense. She recorded seven first half points, mostly because of a three pointer she hit to keep the score within seven late in the first half; before absolutely going off in the second. The junior guard used her athleticism to open up space for several key mid-range jump shots that helped keep Washington State within striking distance; Cooks finished the night with 19 points and seven rebounds.
It’s a tough emotional loss for the Cougars that definitely hurts their NCAA tournament odds (Oregon entered last nights contest ranked at 132 by RPI). WSU next plays Oregon State (No. 10 according to RPI) at Beasley Coliseum on Sunday at 2 pm.