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Cardiac Cougs beat UCLA in final seconds, 66-65

Krystal the Magician works her magic again.

PULLMAN, WA - FEBRUARY 11: Washington State Women’s Basketball versus the UCLA Bruins at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State guard Krystal Leger-Walker (4) and guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (5) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

The resilient Washington State Cougars defeated the UCLA Bruins on yet another display of brilliance in the closing seconds from Krystal Leger-Walker, 66-65.

In shades of the Apple Cup just weeks prior, WSU (15-8, 7-5 in Pac-12) fought their way back into the game after UCLA (10-8, 5-6) led by seven just over halfway through the final quarter. In the closing seconds, Charlisse Leger-Walker couldn’t get a short turnaround jumper to fall, but her sister, Krystal Leger-Walker, was able to come up with the loose rebound and convert an and-one to tie the game with just 1.7 seconds to go.

Krystal knocked home the go ahead free throw and the Cardiac Cougs, yet again, came out remarkably victorious.

WSU came into Friday night’s game hoping to flush out the poor performance they had on Wednesday afternoon, losing by 53 to Oregon. Neither offense could get going early, as both teams experienced a plethora of turnovers in the first half. The Cougars also got into some foul trouble early as Charlisse picked up her third foul of the first half before the seven minute mark in the second quarter, forcing her to spend the rest of the half on the bench.

With WSU leading 12-9 at the end of the first quarter, the offenses picked it up in the second frame. Krystal got a pair of threes to fall, including a deep trey as the shot clock expired and UCLA hit 54.5% of their shots as WSU led by a point at halftime, 28-27.

The Cougars continued to keep UCLA at an arm’s length throughout the third quarter. Every time the Bruins pulled within a possession, WSU answered by rattling off at least another three points. WSU pushed the lead up to seven on a pair of free throws from Ula Motuga before UCLA ended the third quarter on a layup from Iimari Thomas, making it a five-point game heading into the final quarter.

The Cougs looked to be heading for a win, but there were warning signs of trouble — WSU headed into the final 10 minutes in deep foul trouble. Bella Murekatete picked up two fouls in the third to reach four total and Motuga and Charlisse both had three. Even the Cougars head coach Kamie Ethridge had her own foul trouble as she received a technical foul in the quarter. If the Cougars were going to hold on to this one, they couldn’t afford to foul much more.

UCLA threw a haymaker to start the final quarter, rattling off 12 straight to take a seven-point lead. Bruins sharpshooter Charisma Osborne had seven of those 12, including a pair of treys.

Down seven with 5:08 on the clock, Charlisse — the team’s leading scorer — finally recorded her first made field goal of the game on a three ball to cut the lead to four. She had a similar three to spark a run in the Apple Cup in Pullman that pulled WSU back into the game.

It happened again.

A minute later, Osborne couldn’t get a layup to fall against some, we’ll just call it “physical” defense from Murekatete, infuriating UCLA coach Cori Close, who received her own technical foul. Krystal knocked down both free throws, and WSU was back within a possession. Two more Krystal free throws on the ensuing possession tied the game at 56. WSU took the lead back at the 2:21 mark on a Murekatete layup, then Motuga came up big again from distance nearly 30 seconds later, hitting a three to give WSU a two-point lead.

With the game tied with 56 seconds to go, Osborne flew right by the Cougar defense for the layup to give UCLA the lead again. WSU called timeout to draw up a play — and nearly got it to work perfectly. Charlisse took the inbound and drove to the basket, drawing the help defense from the right corner, opening up Krystal for a wide open three. Charlisse, who we’ve seen countless times whip a perfect pass to an open perimeter player, threw the ball too high out of Krystal’s reach and out of bounds, giving UCLA the ball with 39 seconds left.

But UCLA turned the ball right back over to WSU with 20 seconds to go, giving the Cougars one last shot.

Coming out of the timeout, Krystal drove to the rim but her shot attempt was blocked and went out of bounds off of UCLA. Ethridge called the team’s final timeout with 7 seconds to go to draw up one last play. Charlisse got the ball on the left block and tried to hit a short turnaround fadeaway. The ball fell short — and right between two UCLA defenders. Like a magician, Krystal seemingly appeared out of thin air to snag the ball, immediately throwing it right back up towards the rim while being fouled, and the ball bounced off the glass and in to tie the game with just 1.7 seconds left. Krystal, as cold as the Pullman winters, sank the go-ahead free throw to give WSU an improbable 66-65 lead.

UCLA got a chance for some magic of its own, but the inbounds pass was airmailed well out of bounds. WSU inbounded the ball and ran out the final 1.7 seconds as the Cardiac Cougs again, somehow, someway, continue to be magically resilient and victorious.

It’s hard to put into just a few words who this team is. They continue to just win in the most unbelievable fashions. Krystal, yet again, gets the game-tying putback off of a Charlisse miss against UCLA.

“Out of nowhere, she shows up and saves the day like a superhuman type of player.” Kamie Ethridge said.

Just when you think they can’t top the way they pulled off the last time they were in these scenarios or you think they just simply are out of magic, they just simply win. It’s remarkable how tough this team is. It’s almost like they just believe in themselves so much, that the belief simply turns into magical ending after magical ending. Each one getting more and more impressive. They’re just truly special. Magical. Resilient. Cougs.

We’ll see if they have anymore magic on Sunday at high noon when they host the USC Trojans.