PULLMAN — Freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker had 22 points and six rebounds as the Washington State women's basketball team rode a hot start to a 68-55 Pac-12 victory Sunday against Utah at Beasley Coliseum.
"It just feels good," a relieved Cougars coach Kamie Ethridge said. "It feels like we got reintroduced to the team we were used to for a lot of January. I think we just hit a little bit of a wall. It wasn't any one thing that we could point to, because again I keep telling the team I don't know that we can play any harder. But trying to squeeze drops of something out of us, and I just felt like something was missing. We really just hammered home that we haven't had the same energy, from top to bottom, individually or collectively as a team. When you don't have good energy from everyone, it tends to lead to a lack of focus, individual agendas within a game, and that stuff can happen so fast. I wish I would have seen that a little bit sooner. Again, it's disguised a little bit because we play hard.
"But I just loved the attention to detail that we had tonight. I loved the command of our defensive effort. I loved the energy of (senior guard) Krystal (Leger-Walker) and (sophomore guard Joanna Teder) on the ball and how they guarded their key players. And you saw a different (sophomore center) Bella (Murekatete) in the post, and someone that was really serious about being a big presence for us. Across the board, I just thought our team really was dedicated and committed to whatever it took for us to be successful."
Murekatete added 12 points and six rebounds for the Cougars (10-10, 8-10 Pac-12), who had lost four consecutive games and nine of 11 overall since upsetting No. 7 Arizona at home on Jan. 10. STeder chipped in 11 points, and Krystal Leger-Walker finished with seven points but added 11 assists.
Peyton McFarland came off the bench for 14 points and six rebounds for the Utes (5-15, 4-15). Kemery Martin added 13 points and six rebounds, and Kelsey Rees finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
Washington State blasted out to a 26-14 on the strength of 8-for-15 (53.3 percent) shooting in the first quarter. The Cougars were 4-for-7 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range and perfect in six free-throw attempts.
Utah scored the five of the first seven points in the game, but Washington State went on a 14-0 run to assume control. Junior forward Ula Motuga gave the Cougars the lead for good at the 7:01 mark with a layup, then Charlisse Leger-Walker scored the next seven points on a 3 and four free throws. Teder finished the run with a 3 that put WSU ahead 16-5. The Cougars increased their lead to 15 with less than a minute remaining and held the 12-point advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Washington State cruised from there, holding a lead as large as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars wrap up the regular season at 1 p.m. Feb. 28 at home against Washington.
UTAH (5-15, 4-15)
Martin 3-14, 6-6 13, Maxwell 2-7 0-0 6, Pendande 1-1 0-0 2, Torres 0-1 0-0 0, Becker 0-2 0-0 0, McFarland 5-8 4-8 14, Rees 5-8 0-0 10, McQueen 3-7 0-0 7, Puc 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 20-51 10-14 55.
WASHINGTON STATE (10-10, 8-10)
C. Leger-Walker 6-16 6-8 22, Murkatete 5-9 2-2 12, Teder 4-8 0-0 11, Motuga 3-7 2-2 9, K. Leger-Walker 3-6 0-0 7, Jones 1-4 0-0 3, Nankervis 1-2 0-0 2, Molina 1-1 0-0 2, Sarver 0-1 0-0 0, Levyu 0-2 0-0 0, Clarke 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 10-12 68.
Utah 14 10 12 19—55
Washington State 26 13 13 16—68
3-point goals — Utah 5-15 (Maxwell 2-3, Puc 1-1, McQueen 1-3, Martin 1-6, Torres 0-1, Becker 0-1), Washington State 10-25 (C. Leger-Walker 4-7, Teder 3-7, Motuga 1-2, K. Leger-Walker 1-3, Jones 1-4, Sarver 0-1, Levy 0-1). Rebounds — Utah 34 (Martin, McFarland, Rees 6), Washington State 31 (C. Leger-Walker, Murekatete 6). Assists — Utah 13 (Martin, Becker 3), Washington State 18 (K. Leger-Walker 11). Total fouls — Utah 11, Washington State 16.