The Washington State women’s basketball team (19-11) saw its season come to in end in a frustrating game to the ninth seeded Kansas State (20-12) that was a combination of poor shooting and foul trouble for its post players. WSU shot 13.6% from beyond the arc and 32.4% from inside it in route to a 40-50 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Outside of Charlisse and Krystal Leger-Walker there was almost no offensive production for the Cougs. Johana Teder and Ula Motuga, who had been clutch all season, were cold from beyond the arc as they combined to hit one of 13 shots throughout the game. Without their sharp shooting from beyond the arc, the Wildcats were able to key in on the Leger-Walkers and take them out of the game in the second half.
The Cougars scored four of the first six points in the third quarter to push their lead out to nine…it would be their largest lead of the game. It didn’t take long for KSU to completely erase that lead as the Cats went on a 14-1 run to take a 31-29 lead with 2:54 left in the third frame.
A Charlisse jumper would tie it back up and then she’d hit another one to give the Cougs the lead back at 33-31; but Ayoka Lee would tie it up and Washington State wouldn’t take another lead in the game.
It was a pair of free throws by Rebekah Dallinger that would give Kansas State a 35-33 lead at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth. That marked the start of a 10-2 run that pushed KSU’s lead out to 43-35 before a pair of free throws from Motuga and a jumper from Charlisse would cut the KSU lead down to four.
Jessica Clarke would join Bella Murekatete on the bench in the middle of that 10-2 run with four fouls, and neither would come back into the game despite the fact that Lee started to score without WSU’s two post players in the game.
Lee would finish the night with her 20th double-double; 20 points and 15 rebounds. Most of those points were scored with the Cougars post players on the bench. Charlisse would also have 20 points, a NCAA Tournament program record, but she was the only Cougar in double digits.
Charlisse’s 20 points primarily came in the first three quarters as she struggled to find open shots in the fourth and when she did those shots didn’t fall. Unfortunately, no one else was able to set-up and it led to WSU only scoring seven points in the final quarter — compared to KSU’s 15. It was the difference in the game.
Washington State took a 24-17 lead into the half time locker room as the Cougs had done a fantastic job of containing Lee (6 points, 1-5 from the field and 4-6 from the charity stripe). It took a 7-0 run at the start of the second quarter — which pushed WSU’s lead out to nine — for the Cougars to establish a lead that they would hold until the buzzer.
Brylee would hit a floater and that would be followed up by Lee’s first field goal of the night to cut the lead to five. Dallinger than capped off the Wildcats 5-0 run to cut the Cougs’ lead down to three at 16-13.
Charlisse would draw a foul and hit the first, but miss the second, free throw to put an end to that KSU run. Krytsal would push the lead out to four after an Ebert jumper to make it 19-15. The Cougs would close out the second quarter on a 5-1 run to get us to the half time score.
That second quarter was an offensive explosion compared to the first quarter. Both teams were able to stuff the lanes and break up the others offensive rhythm. Krystal scored the final bucket of the first quarter to make it 9-5 which was the score at the start of the second frame.
There were a combined 11 turnovers in the first quarter as both offenses struggled with the relatively early tip time. Kansas State had scored the first points of the game with an Ebert three pointer and that lead was eventually pushed out to five with a pair of free throws by Lee.
Washington State would go on a 7-0 run of its own to take the lead and it would not be relinquished until the media timeout in the third quarter. It was a Krystal three that kicked off that run and then Charlisse tied it with a layup. The sophomore would then hit a pair of free throws to take the lead.
This was a frustrating end to the program’s best season in the NCAA era, and its best season since the 1978-79. And I’m sure it’ll be easier to look at the positives in a day or so…but man that sucked in the moment.
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Photo Credit: Kansas State women’s basketball