WSU (12-6, 4-3 in Pac-12) — which has made a habit of coming back late over the past two seasons — trailed by nine with under five minutes to go in the game, but thanks to a horrendous shooting night at the free throw line from UW (5-8, 0-5 in Pac-12), the Cougars crawled their way back into the game and forced overtime on an Ula Motuga three. The Cougars outscored the Huskies 10-6 in the extra period to sneak away with a 60-56 victory.
The Cougars have now won four straight against the Huskies and six of the past seven.
It was a rough start for the Cougars offensively, shooting just 26.7% from the field in the first quarter and missing all six three point attempts. The slow start carried over into the second quarter as the Cougars fell into a seven-point hole. After Bella Murekatete got a short jumper to fall, Krystal Leger-Walker dragged the Cougars right out of the deficit, hitting a pair of threes to give the Cougars the lead. The Cougars locked in on the defensive end, holding the Huskies to just six points in the quarter and didn’t allow a field goal for the final 8:15 of the half. With the Cougars leading by just two, Johanna Teder, without the mask this time, hit a three before the horn to give the Cougars their largest lead of the game at five heading into the halftime break.
All momentum came to a screeching halt in the third quarter. The Cougars again couldn’t find the basket, shooting 28.6% in the third quarter with five turnovers. The defense fell off as well. The Huskies shot 60% and outscored WSU 23-13 in the quarter to take a five-point lead into the final period. The lead extended to nine for the Huskies as the Cougars drought continued well into the fourth quarter. With the Cougar offense stagnant and multiple Cougars in foul trouble, including the Leger-Walker sisters, the hope of bringing home a fourth straight win over the rivals looked bleak.
Yet, the Huskies just couldn’t put the Cougars away, missing multiple free throws and allowing the Cougars to slowly crawl back into the game. The free throw game began at the 37-second mark. Darcy Rees missed both free throws, but the Huskies would collect a long offensive rebound, their 13th of the game. Rees again got two shots at the line and only converted once. After the Huskies couldn’t reel in a defensive rebound and let the ball go out of bounds, WSU would get another chance to tie the game down by three.
Krystal Leger-Walker lined up a slightly contested three in the corner — off an identical out of bounds play that she had scored on before — but she couldn’t get the shooters roll. Charlisse Leger-Walker, for the first time in her WSU career, took her fifth foul, to send UW back to the stripe that had tormented them all game. It also sent WSU into the abyss of the final seconds without their leading scorer. T.T. Watkins hit only one of two, giving WSU yet another chance.
With time winding down, Krystal worked her magic again. Driving to the bucket and looking off the defender, she saw the double team running to Johanna Teder and whipped a pass to Ula Motuga — who she knew would be open — at the top of the arc.
Last season, Motuga shot just 13-54 (24.1%) from beyond the arc, but this season, she has hit 16-31 (51.6%) coming into Friday’s game. The emergence of Motuga’s shot from deep has been an incredible leap.
The Cougars got the stop they needed under the rim and forced overtime in a game that felt out of reach just five minutes prior.
In overtime, the Cougar defense got clutch stop after stop, never letting Washington gain a lead. When called upon to shoot free throws, Murekatete, who was 2-of-12 from the field, drilled all four of her attempts including a pair with 44 seconds to go to give WSU the lead at 58-56. Washington got yet another golden opportunity from the free throw line with 15 seconds to go down two.
The crowd of over 1,100 rose to their feet and gave their loudest roar of the night as Rees missed both free throws and WSU grabbed the defensive rebound. Coming out of the timeout, the Huskies fouled Krystal Leger-Walker to send her to the line with a chance to put the Cougars up four. The calm, cool, veteran magician nailed both easily. Cougs lead by four. The Huskies’ desperation heave missed, the Cougars came away with the rebound and ran the ball down the court till it hit triple zeros. Comeback complete. The Cardiac Cougs strike again in unprecedented fashion over their rival Washington Huskies.
They just continue to find ways to win. When the ball just would not bounce their way all night and the game seemed to have slipped away, the Cougars dug deep and continued to fight and claw their way back into the game, forcing the opponent to panic as the Cardiac Cougars began to prowl, looking to strike and find their way back in it. The prowl began on a 9-2 run in the fourth and the pounce landed when Motuga sunk arguably one of the biggest threes of her long career in Pullman. The fighting and clawing, from Murekatete’s huge four for four free throws. The final swipe, the captain, Krystal Leger-Walker hits the free throws to give the Cougars the final two points they needed to seal a miraculous victory.
The Huskies shot a putrid 6-21 (28.6%) from the free throw line but made up for some of the misses by grabbing 18 offensive rebounds, 46% of their misses. The Leger-Walker sisters combined for 32 points with Charlisse being the games leading scorer with 18.
But the celebration will be short-lived. A day off on Saturday before a rematch against a Huskies team seeking revenge in Seattle on Sunday at noon.