Despite Oregon State’s (9-5, 2-2 in Pac-12) size advantage and a depleted frontcourt for Washington State (11-6, 3-3 in Pac-12), the Cougars were able to hang tough down low and hold off a late surge from the Beavers to pick up a huge conference win.
The Cougars were already undersized coming into the Wednesday afternoon matinee make-up game as the Beavers roster average height sits at a lengthy 6’2 compared to WSU’s 5’11. To make the challenge even tougher down low, the Cougars were without forwards Emma Nankervis and Jessica Clarke, leaving Bella Murekatete as the only player over 6’3 suited up for Washington State.
Neither offense got much to fall in the first quarter, shooting a combined 8-30 (26.7%) from the field. The Beavers didn’t see the ball go through the net for 7:33 while WSU’s drought fell short of the five minute mark at 4:51. The Cougars capitalized on the Beavers drought, taking a 12-6 lead into the 2nd quarter.
Johanna Teder seemed to get a bonus to her shooting attributes from her mask that she was wearing, scoring 11 points in nearly nine minutes with a trio of threes across the first and second quarter. The Cougar defense would continue to prowl and pounce in the paint on the defensive end, making it tough for the Beaver bigs to get shots up. While the Beaver bigs tried to work against Murekatete, the Cougar guards would collapse and claw at the ball, forcing multiple turnovers. Oregon State got within three on a 6-0 run, but Krystal Leger-Walker would hit a deep three before the first half horn to send WSU into the locker room up six.
The Beavers’ 6’6 forward Kennedy Brown tied the game early into the second half with a pair of free throws and a short jumper. The Cougars instantly responded with a 13-5 run over the next 5:40 as the Leger-Walker sisters combined for eight and Teder would knock down five free throws to bring her total points up to 16.
With the Cougars leading by seven heading into the final quarter, Ula Motuga took over. Motuga scored the first eight points of the quarter for WSU, including knocking down back-to-back threes from the top of the arc — the second sending the WSU bench into a frenzy with the Cougar lead up to 13. Motuga then hit a tough reverse lay-up to push the Cougar lead to 12. The Beavers refused to go away quietly, pulling back within five after putting together a 7-0 run. Murekatete stop the Beaver run with two strong finishes in traffic on back-to-back possessions to push the WSU lead back up to nine. The Beavers would again pull back within five with 23 seconds to go, but WSU would seal the game with a pair of free throws and one last defensive stop.
Despite such a huge size advantage down low for the Beavers, the Cougar defense did a fantastic job limiting opportunities early. Whenever a Beaver forward would catch the ball in the post, there was always a WSU guard to harass and force the Beavers to pass the ball out or create a takeaway. It took awhile for the Cougars to find a rhythm offensively, especially with their leading scorer Charlisse having an off-day shooting from the field, but Teder, aka #MaskJo, led the way with 17. Three other Cougars, Murekatete, Krystal and Motuga also hit double-digit points.
On deck is an Apple Cup weekend with a home game against the Washington Huskies on Friday night followed up by noon Sunday rematch in Seattle.