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WSU upsets No. 8 Arizona on Senior Day, 72-67

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Krystal, Shir and Michaela will ride off into the sunset with one final upset win at Beasley.

PULLMAN, WA - FEBRUARY 20: Washington State Cougars Women’s Basketball versus the University of Arizona Wildcats at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State guard Michaela Jones (2) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

For the second straight year, the Washington State Cougars upset a top 10 Arizona WIldcats team in Pullman — this year’s final score, 72-67, on Sunday.

WSU (18-8, 10-5 in Pac-12) hung tough with No. 8 Arizona (19-4, 9-5) and even controlled the game at multiple stages, having the lead for 26:15. The Cougs pulled away late in the game, anchored by a 7-0 Johanna Teder run to all but seal the Senior Day victory.

The win launches WSU into second (!!) in the Pac-12 standings and puts WSU in a great spot to get a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, needing just one more win or one Utah loss to clinch a top four seed. It also may have been the resume-boosting win the Cougars have been searching for that pushes them firmly into the NCAA tournament field.

Bella Murekatete got it going early for WSU, scoring the first six points for WSU in the paint. Arizona capitalized on some easy missed shots from WSU, going on a 9-0 run to take a five-point lead. Teder pulled WSU right back in it, continuing her red-hot stretch with a pair of threes. With neither team known for having a high-octane offense, it was a surprise to see a combined 35 points from both teams at the end of the first 10 minutes.

The teams traded shots to open the second period before WSU finally got a bit of a run going. A pair of free throws from Grace Sarver, a trademark Charlisse Leger-Walker paint fader and a Teder three fueled a 7-3 run to tie WSU’s largest lead of the game at four. The quick offense quickly faded as WSU couldn’t score for the final 3:12 of the half, and Arizona took the lead into the halftime break with a 6-0 run.

Murekatete again got the offense going to start the second half, scoring the first four points of the half to retake the lead. Neither team could seemingly pull away in the third quarter. WSU was presented opportunities to push the lead up to multiple possessions, but couldn’t get those shots to fall. After Arizona tied the game with 3:47 to go in the period, WSU flipped a switch and ended the quarter on a 9-4 run to send WSU into the final 10 minutes, clinging to a five-point lead.

WSU kept Arizona at an arms-length away for most of the fourth quarter, not letting Arizona get within a possession. Helena Pueyo finally broke the WSU two-possession barrier, hitting a three to bring Arizona within two with 2:44 to go. After Arizona couldn’t get the game-tying bucket to fall, the Cougars rode the hot hand, giving the ball to Teder who cashed in a three to send WSU back up by five. Teder again put the nail deeper into the Arizona coffin with a beautiful drive and finish at the bucket to push the lead to seven with 1:12 to go. Teder knocked home two more points on a pair of free throws to extend her personal run to 7-0 and all but put the dagger in the top-ten ‘Cats.

Arizona played the free throw game for the final minute, trying to extend the game as long as possible. But the Leger-Walker sisters calmly hit their free throws to bar Arizona from any late desperation comeback effort. Kamie Ethridge was able to get senior Michaela Jones into game for the final seconds. Arizona scored one more bucket with seven seconds left and opted not to foul as Charlisse dribbled the ball up the court and got the ball to Jones to dribble out the clock and give WSU the win on the senior’s final game at Beasley Coliseum. A big win, at that.

It’s unbelievable that the unbelievable has become believable. The program that won just nine games in total just three seasons ago, just sent out their senior class with another win against a top-ten team that tied the program record for conference and total wins in a season. It wasn’t like the upset win today was a massive shocker that WSU kind of fell into. They controlled this game for a large majority of it. It even felt almost expected that WSU was going to hang around and had a real shot at winning this game. They proved that they can and will hang around with the best teams in the nation because they are one of the better teams in the nation. The job Kamie Ethridge, Krystal Leger-Walker, Shir Levy and Michaela Jones and the underclassmen that will take the reins following this season have done to completely turn around this program is truly remarkable.

I’ll save all the words I want to use here to describe who this team is for a later date. Because as the late great Kobe Bryant once famously said: “Job’s not finished.” This team and these seniors still have much more to add to their story.

The Cougars will travel to the Bay Area to finish the year with the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday and will conclude the regular season with the California Golden Bears on Saturday.