Kamie Ethridge has once again etched her name next to another program first. On Thursday night, the Washington State Cougars defeated the UCLA Bruins in Pauley Pavilion for the first time in program history, 62-55.
The win avenges WSU’s (19-9, 9-8 in Pac-12) close loss at home to UCLA (21-8, 10-7) earlier in the year without Charlisse Leger-Walker, who had 12 points in Thursday’s game. WSU was up to the task early, not letting UCLA lead in the first half outside of the Bruins making the first two free throws of the game. UCLA eventually got rolling after missing their first 13 field goal attempts of the game, storming back and tying the game before the halftime buzzer.
The Bruins jumped out to their biggest lead of the game, four, after hitting back-to-back shots to open the second half. WSU quickly took the lead right back with a statement run. Tara Wallack kicked off the run with an and-one to pull within a point and Leger-Walker regained the lead with a pair of free throws of her own. Wallack and Bella Murekatete knocked home two buckets inside before Wallack closed off the 12-0 run with a trey to put the Cougars up eight. Every UCLA comeback attempt was quickly answered by WSU, who carried the momentum into the fourth quarter and took a game-high nine-point lead.
After the Bruins brought a nine-point deficit down to three with a minute and a half to go, Leger-Walker whipped a perfect pass to a wide-open Wallack who knocked down the dagger three with 24 seconds to go to put WSU up six.
I said it last year and it remains true about this team: It's unbelievable that the unbelievable has become believable. It wasn’t that long ago that the thoughts of winning at places like Pauley Pavilion and becoming one of the best programs in the Pac-12 were unheard of. Yet, here we are again discussing another program first and after that win, leaving no doubt that WSU will be headed to their third-straight NCAA tournament.
Before they get there, they will be in Las Vegas next weekend for the Pac-12 tournament. With only six games left in the Pac-12 slate, the picture is becoming clearer on where each team will finish and who they will play in the first round.
After Thursday night's action, the Cougars still remain in seventh in the Pac-12 standings. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your viewpoint) the USC Trojans' win over the Washington Huskies eliminates any chance of the Cougars getting the five-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament due to the tiebreakers outlined in the article posted Wednesday. This leaves WSU as the sixth or seventh seed.
Once again, WSU will need to do some scoreboard watching Saturday afternoon. To get the six-seed, WSU and Washington will need to win on Saturday afternoon. If either team loses, WSU will be the seven seed.
This is because USC owns the tiebreaker over WSU thanks to their win over Stanford. In any two-way tie between the two, USC will be above WSU. WSU is relying on being locked into a three-way tie with UCLA and USC, in which WSU would finish above USC thanks to having the second-best record in games played between the three:
UCLA 3-1 (.750)
WSU 2-2 (.500)
USC 1-3 (.250)
Now time to figure out who WSU may see first in Las Vegas. The six-seed will play the 11-seed and the seven-seed will play the 10-seed. California has locked itself into the 10-seed thanks to its win over Oregon State earlier in the year while the Beavers will be the 11-seed. Other seeds that have been clinched: Stanford at 1, Utah at 2, UCLA at 5, Washington at 8, Oregon at 9, and Arizona State at 12.
This likely means WSU will face off against the California Golden Bears to open the Pac-12 tournament unless the state of Washington schools can both win this weekend, giving WSU a date with the Beavers instead.
While the Golden Bears and Beavers aren’t too drastic of a difference, WSU’s potential second-round matchup very well could be. If WSU remains the seven-seed and defeats Cal, they will play the powerhouse two-seed Utah Utes in the second round. On the other hand, if WSU jumps up to the six-seed, they will play Colorado in the second round if they get past the Beavers. The only other seeding yet to be determined is the three and four seeds, being fought for by Colorado and Arizona. The two split their season series at one apiece, meaning we have to use the Pac-12’s tiebreaker rule of going down the standings to see who has the highest win percentage against the highest-ranked team. Funny enough, the difference comes right at the other seeding difference at the six and seven seeds with WSU and USC. Colorado would own the tiebreaker over Arizona if WSU is the six-seed and Arizona would own the tiebreaker if USC is the six-seed. Colorado can avoid the tiebreaker altogether if it wins its game vs Cal or if Arizona loses to OSU. This would mean Colorado is the only opponent WSU can get in the second round as a six-seed regardless of how Colorado and Arizona play on Saturday.
To sum this all up:
- WSU 6 seed vs Oregon State: WSU + UW win
- WSU 7 seed vs California: WSU or UW loss
Potential Second-Round Matchup:
- If 6 seed: Colorado
- If 7 seed: Utah