The Washington State Cougars survived a hot shooting night early on from the Montana Grizzlies and accelerated in the second half for a 77-57 victory.
WSU (6-1) led by just three at the half, thanks in part to Montana (2-5) shooting six of seven from beyond the arc in the first twenty minutes. The Cougs came out the break with their hair on fire. A 16-0 Cougar run between the third and fourth quarters pushed WSU well in front for the Cougars sixth win.
Montana refused to miss in the first quarter. The Lady Griz shot 62.5% from the field and hit three of four from downtown. Keeli Burton-Oliver scored 10 of the Grizzlies first 24 points on a perfect four of four shooting. WSU countered with Charlisse Leger-Walker. Leger-Walker scored 12 points in the first quarter, all coming from beyond the arc. With Leger-Walker beating the Grizzlies from outside, Bella Murekatete beat them inside with 13 first half points.
Despite the excellent first-half performances from Leger-Walker and Murekatete and the rest of the Cougar offense, the Grizzlies offense wouldn’t let up. Both teams went into the half shooting over 50% as the Cougars led 40-37.
The Cougars turned up the heat defensively in the second half and the Grizzlies finally began to cool off. WSU held Montana to just nine points and four of 12 shooting from the field. Despite WSU’s defensive intensity, they still couldn’t pull away. The Grizzlies four third quarter field goals were just enough to bring the game to a 46-46 tie with 4:28 left in third.
Leger-Walker decided enough was enough. After Murekatete and Tara Wallack hit back-to-back layups, Leger-Walker knocked home back-to-back threes to tie her career high of six three-pointers in a game. The run carried into the fourth quarter as what once was a tied game, had quickly swung to a 16 point Cougar lead. Montana tried to rally, but the quiet Johanna Teder, who hadn’t scored for the first 44 minutes, loudly slammed the door on the Grizzlies with back-to-back-to-back treys. It was cruise control from there as the Cougars earned their sixth victory of the season with a 20-point win.
The Cougars are off for a northwest tour, starting with the Portland Pilots on Wednesday and kick off conference play in Seattle against the Washington Huskies next Sunday.