The Washington State women’s basketball team (7-1) overcame a 12 point deficit in the middle of the third quarter to knock off the Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-1) 51-49 in Spokane, Wash. It was a slow start out of the halftime locker room that put WSU in that hole, it took Bella Murekatete and Charlisse Leger-Walker dominating the paint towards the end of the third quarter to get Washington State back in the game.
Kayleigh Truong turned a Washington State turnover into a jumper to put the Zags up 34-22 with 5:04 left in the third quarter. Her bucket came in the middle of a Cougar scoring drought that lasted 2:41 seconds — Gonzaga scored six unanswered points in that same time frame. Ula Motuga put the Cougars back on the board with a three that led to an 11-2 run to close out the third quarter and send it to the final frame with Gonzaga in the lead by three.
Washington State started the fourth quarter by scoring six of the first eight points to take its first lead of the ball game. Tara Wallack dominated the paint in the early part of the first quarter to help the Cougs get that one point lead. While it didn’t take long for the Zags to take back the lead with a bucket of their own, at this point it became a back and forth affair. That is until WSU went on a 6-0 run, which started with 4:56 left, to build up a 47-43 lead that it would hold until 1:30 was left on the clock.
Motuga scored with a second chance layup to get the Cougars back into the lead at 49-47; but the Zags quickly tied it up on a pair of Melody Kempton free throws after Murekatete was called for a foul. The game was ultimately decided by a free throw from Murkatete with 23 seconds left and then Charlisse hit the second of two from charity stripe to give us the final margin.
The win came after one of the slowest starts in the first half of basketball I’ve ever seen — or in this case heard since I couldn’t find a stream of the game — as the Cougars shot 18.5% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arch. Charlisse, Johanna Tedder, and Grace Sarver were the only ones to score points for WSU in the first two quarters (five, six, and five respectively).
Despite the poor offensive showing, the Cougars only turned it over four times in the first half. In fact, they actually had twice as many turnovers in the second half than in the first. At the end of the game, the Cougs turned it over on 18.2% of their possessions which is an improved number from where they’ve been at times early in this season.
This win over Gonzaga gives Washington State a win over another program that is receiving votes in the coaches poll but is 37 spots higher than it in the NCAA’s NET ratings. At No. 24, this is a huge win for the Cougars tournament resume especially since they have yet to start Pac-12 play. It is also WSU’s first win in Spokane since 2014 (when we were still in college and broadcasting on KURG).
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Photo Credit: Gonzaga women’s basketball