LOS ANGELES — For the third consecutive game, the 25th-ranked Washington State women's basketball team stormed back from a double-digit second-half deficit. For the third contest in a row, one of the Leger-Walker sisters sent it into overtime.
But the Cougars couldn’t close in the extra session against an opponent they rarely beat, at a venue where they’ve never won in their history. Although Wazzu turned heads again, it fell 68-66 to No. 8 UCLA on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion, dropping to 0-33 all time on the road against the Bruins.
“It’s never fun to come this close and lose,” third-year coach Kamie Ethridge said. “We’ve had a lot of these. We dig ourselves a little bit of a hole. We don’t quite believe we’re as good as (the teams) we’re playing. I was a bit disappointed. I thought we gave them too much credit in the first half.”
WSU (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) trailed by 16 points early in the third period, and by 13 entering the fourth. The Cougs erased that deficit in a snap with a 13-0 rally, tying it up at the two-minute mark after three jumpers from Krystal and Charlisse Leger-Walker.
Down three points with two seconds to play, the Bruins (8-2, 6-2) elected to foul Charlisse Leger-Walker to prevent a potential tying shot. The freshman sibling made her first free throw, then intentionally bounced the second off the left side of the rim. Krystal, the savvy senior, slipped into the paint, grabbed the rebound and quickly flipped the ball back up and in to deadlock the score with under a second left in regulation.
“High-IQ, gutsy performance by Krystal,” Ethridge said. “Just again, so much credit to these heady, smart, thinking-ahead kind of players. And her sister knows how to miss the exact side that her sister’s going to.”
WSU had a one-point lead in the extra session with about a minute remaining after Charlisse Leger-Walker's midrange basket. But behind superstar play from sophomore guard Charisma Osborne — who scored 11 of her game-high 28 points in overtime — UCLA reclaimed the advantage and stayed ahead with foul shots as the Cougs went cold.
The younger Leger-Walker scored 10 of her team-best 18 points in the final two periods, going 7-for-20 from the field overall and adding seven rebounds and three steals. Center Bella Murekatete tacked on 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting, also setting new career-highs in blocked shots (five) and rebounds (16). Krystal Leger-Walker had 13 points on 5-for-19 from the field, chipping in four rebounds and four assists.
Only three other players scored for a Cougs team that outshot the Bruins 40.9 percent to 31.4 percent. UCLA was outrebounded, but committed fewer turnovers (17-11) and had an edge at the free-throw line — going 18-for-23 against WSU’s 6-for-18.
Bruin All-American post Michaela Onyenwere scored 14 points and pulled down 15 boards, and guard Natalie Chou chipped in 15 points.
Wazzu went down 11-2 after the first three minutes and didn’t hold an edge until late in the fourth — the lead changed hands six times in the final six minutes.
“We didn’t handle their pressure well enough (early) and I didn’t even try to run some of our stuff, and that’s on me,” Ethridge said. “I continue to be amazed at this team’s resilience, fight and playmaking ability to keep the game close. They defend at such a high level. We’re staying in games because we’re guarding really well.”
WSU came back from down 16 points to stun No. 7 Arizona in OT on Jan. 10 — a result which earned the program its first Associated Press Top 25 ranking in its history. The Cougars lost in OT to USC on Friday after rallying from down 12.
Wazzu probably will slip out of the rankings this week, but the Cougs will get another crack at a top-25 opponent at 5 p.m. on Friday, when they meet No. 10 Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
SCHEDULE UPDATE — WSU’s home game against Cal, scheduled to take place Jan. 31 at Beasley Coliseum, has been postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Golden Bears’ program. The contest will be rescheduled in the near future.
WASHINGTON ST. (7-3, 5-3)
Motuga 0-1 0-2 0, Murekatete 6-10 2-2 14, Charlisse Leger-Walker 7-20 3-7 18, Krystal Leger-Walker 5-19 0-0 13, Teder 3-8 0-0 8, Levy 0-0 0-0 0, Nankervis 3-4 1-2 7, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Molina 3-4 0-0 6, Sarver 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 27-66 6-13 66.
UCLA (8-2, 6-2)
Bessoir 1-6 2-2 5, Miller 0-3 2-2 2, Onyenwere 4-21 6-8 14, Chou 6-10 2-3 15, Osborne 10-25 4-5 28, Brown 1-2 0-1 2, Corsaro 0-3 2-2 2, Darius 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 22-70 18-23 68.
Washington St. 13 8 14 18 13— 66
UCLA 20 12 16 5 15— 68
3-Point Goals: Washington St. 6-18 (K. Leger-Walker 3-7, Teder 2-6, C. Leger-Walker 1-5), UCLA 6-19 (Osborne 4-10, Bessoir 1-2, Chou 1-2, Corsaro 0-2, Onyenwere 0-3). Fouled Out: K. Leger-Walker. Rebounds: Washington St. 47 (Murekatete 16), UCLA 42 (Onyenwere 15). Assists: Washington St. 13 (K. Leger-Walker 4), UCLA 14 (Osborne, Chou, Corsaro, Miller 3). Total Fouls: Washington St. 24, UCLA 16.