Despite a 22-point WSU lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Golden Bears forced the Cougars to sweat out the final minutes of the game, going on an 18-2 run to bring the game within six with 40 seconds to go. But, the clock ran out on the Cal comeback attempt as the Cougars were able to slip away with a historic six-point win.
The win clinched WSU a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. It is WSU’s first conference tournament bye in program history! The Cougars also set single-season program records for wins in the NCAA Era with 19 and Pac-12 wins with 11.
With the Oregon Ducks beating the Utah Utes, the Cougars are the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. They will play the winner of the No. 11 California Golden Bears vs No. 6 Utah Utes game on Thursday, March 3rd at 8:30 p.m. PT.
The Cougs and Bears played a fairly even first quarter. Evelien Lutje Schipholt scored eight points in a row for the Golden Bears, finishing with eight of their 14 first-quarter points. The teams traded buckets throughout the first quarter but Cal held a two-point lead heading into the second frame.
The Cougar defense began limiting scoring opportunities for Cal to open the second while the Cougar offense got a handful of threes to fall. Charlisse Leger-Walker got a pair of threes to go and Ula Motuga opened and closed WSU’s second-quarter offense with a three. The Cougars were set to take a nine-point lead into the locker room but Cal’s Mia Mastrov knocked home a three before the horn to set back WSU’s halftime lead to six.
WSU came out the halftime break on fire. The Cougars threw a quick 10-0 run together from Charlisse, Johanna Teder and Bella Murekatete. Teder and Motuga ballooned the Cougar lead to 18 after a Cal timeout and it seemed WSU was geared up to run away with this game. Cal, however, scrapped its way to close the third down by just 10.
Once again, WSU got on an early run. Charlisse and Tara Wallack scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter and Motuga added her third trey of the game to push WSU’s lead to 22 after a 14-2 opening run.
With the game seemingly all but over, Cal caught WSU daydreaming of Las Vegas with an 18-2 run of their own. The Cougars were throwing the ball around, missing open shots and not playing well on the defensive end. Cal closed the once 22-point lead to six with 40 seconds to go.
Cal had two chances to cut the Cougar lead even more following WSU turnovers, but the Bears committed fouls both time to hand the ball back to WSU. Krystal Leger-Walker added her lone point of the game on a free throw to ice the game away, giving WSU a seven-point lead with 16 seconds to go. Jayda Curry answered with a three-pointer to bring to back within four with three seconds to go. Murekatete added two more free throws to give WSU a six-point win over the scrappy Golden Bears.
With that, the Pac-12 regular season has come to an end in historic fashion for the Cougars. While the win over Arizona last Sunday felt like the tournament-clincher, it was still possible for WSU to fall into a trap against Cal and give the committee a reason to keep them out.
As far as the Pac-12 tournament, the seedings end as such:
The Cougars will now travel to Las Vegas and have a day off on Wednesday. Cal and Utah will tip-off on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. PT with the winner advancing to play the Cougs at the same time the next day.