The Washington State Cougars women’s basketball team rallied back from as much as 15 down to stun the San Francisco Dons, 69-63. It’s the fourth-largest comeback in program history.
A slow start for WSU (2-0) put the Cougars in a 15-point hole to climb out of entering the second half. Thanks to a 13-point third quarter from Charlisse Leger-Walker — who scored a career-high 35 points overall — the Cougars were able to close the gap to eight going into the fourth. The Cougars mounted a 21-2 run to open the fourth, jumping out to a lead as high as 10, and never looked back.
The veterans Leger-Walker and Bella Murekatete combined for 38 of the Cougars’ 46 second half points, shooting a combined 14-20 from the field.
“I thought it was a gritty performance in the second half,” coach Kamie Ethridge said. “Credit to San Francisco, they are a hard team to play and a hard to prepare for. We had to regroup and it was really good to see our team respond the way they did.”
Even though they headed south and just a little west, WSU opened the game looking a bit jet lagged for their first road game. After Leger-Walker gave the Cougars a late first quarter lead on a free throw with 2:51 to go in the opening quarter, the Cougs began to stumble. The Cougars shot just 25% in both the first and second quarter while the Dons knocked down over half their second frame shots as the game began to slip away from the Cougars. San Francisco used a 7-2 run in the final two minutes to take a 15-point lead into the half.
The halftime break thawed out the ice cold Leger-Walker. With a chance to reset, Leger-Walker took over the game, outscoring the Dons by herself 13-10 in the third quarter. The Leger-Walker takeover of the third helped cut the lead in half as the Cougs found themselves trailing just seven going into the final 10 minutes.
The Dons’ Debora dos Santos opened the final frame with a layup eight seconds in before the Dons offense came to a complete halt. Leger-Walker and Murekatete rattled off 13 straight points to give the Cougars the lead. Tara Wallack capped off the 15-0 run with a layup to push the Cougar lead out to six. dos Santos ended the run with a layup, but the Cougar immediately answered with three layups of their own to push the lead up to 10 with under two minutes to play. The Cougars hung on from there to complete the comeback and assert to the college basketball world that the Kamie Ethridge Cardiac Cougs weren’t just a one year magic run, they’re here to stay.
“I thought it was a dominating second half for us,” Ethridge said. “A lot of good and bad. We have some issues we can clean up. But this is why you play these kinds of teams, it helps you prepare for things that can happen later in the season.”
The unbelievable is still believable when Charlisse Leger-Walker is still on your team. Her 26 points completely took over the second half as the Dons had no answer for the junior phenom. Murekatete controlled the post scoring 14 of her 16 total points in the second half and grabbing all seven of her boards in the final 20 minutes. Not only was she able to have her way in the paint, she got the short jumper rolling from just outside the paint, making her a nightmare for the Dons to guard. Wallack also played a key part in the Cougar rally with seven rebounds and two blocks.
WSU will have a quick turn around as they play host to Prairie View A&M on Sunday afternoon as part of the Pac-12 / SWAC Legacy Series.