Rosie Tarnowski cried when she had to visit Pullman the first time. It’s safe to say Pullman will probably make her cry again.
“I honestly didn’t even want to come on a visit,” Washington State’s 6-foot-1 senior forward from Philadelphia said. “I liked the coaches but didn’t want to go so far away. My parents said I had to at least check it out. I was in tears before I was leaving.
“As soon as I got here I just fell in love with Pullman and the people. I knew it would be a good fit.”
That justifies her parents’ blind faith. Her father, Ray, who played basketball at Philadelphia University and overseas as a professional, kept hearing good things about WSU from an acquaintance. Once his daughter was discovered by WSU coach June Daugherty, maybe it was his curiosity that encouraged her to visit, but it was love at first sight.
“Everyone is so nice,” Rosie said. “The people are much nicer here than they are back home, (but) everyone here makes fun of me for how I talk still, my accent. I just say you kind of lack flavor out here. We have flavor back home.”
Basketball has been a mixed bag.
Tarnowski scored 16 points in her first game and started 20 times as a freshman, when she averaged 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. Although she started 26 games as a sophomore, her high-point game was 10 points. Then as a junior she came off the bench, averaging a point and a rebound.
“My role has definitely changed,” she said. “Am I going to be more of a practice player or am I going to contribute more in games? Do they want me to score or be a defensive stopper?
“As an athlete, you have to realize it’s for the greater good of the team. … It’s just to win games.”
Her first Cougars team won 11 games, the last two eight.
“My role is more of a leadership type role,” Tarnowski said. “I keep everybody positive in practice, motivated, focused. I have more of a vocal role on the court as far as running defense and talking execution on offense. I like the responsibility that comes with it.”
Senior guards April Cook and Jazmine Perkins are the only other survivors from a highly regarded recruiting class. It appears their persistence will pay off.
The Cougars are 4-3 going into tonight’s home opener with Gonzaga (3-1).
“It’s light years from where we were four years ago,” said Tarnowski, who is averaging 5.3 points in four starts. “This year we started with an understanding of where we wanted to be. I think the team has been way more focused. … We all just want to win.”
Tarnowski will complete her elementary education degree by student teaching next fall. Then comes the decision where to live.
“That’s the million dollar question,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll be student teaching in Germany. … I get to put that off.”
Or at least postpone those final tears for a while.
This could be the biggest week of Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule.
After the Bulldogs play the Cougars tonight, they hustle down to Cal State Fullerton for a Friday game before hurrying back to play USC on Sunday afternoon.
Two wins against Pac-12 teams in a week would look good. There is a question about what has happened to the Trojans, who were a preseason Top 25 team and have stumbled to a 2-3 start with losses at Nebraska, No. 11 Georgia and No. 2 Notre Dame. If USC rights the ship, it could turn into a good win for Gonzaga. But right now, with the Trojans’ record and the game occurring at McCarthey, it could be a bad loss.
But first it’s the Cougars.
“That’s going to be a great game,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “I’ve been following women’s basketball in the Northwest for almost 20 years and I think this is the best Washington State team I’ve seen.”
The teams matched up in Hawaii last year, with the Bulldogs escaping with a 67-65 win. Shortly after that, the Zags won 93-75 in Spokane.
Idaho also has a pair of games against Pac-12 teams. Washington (3-2) visits tonight and the Vandals (2-4) head to Colorado for a Sunday game.
The Cougars get to stay at home for a Friday game against San Diego State.
Eastern Washington is headed for the Arizona State tournament, playing the Sun Devils on Friday and Illinois State or Arkansas State on Saturday.
Washington State’s April Cook was an all-tournament pick at the Paradise Jam, where the Cougars went 2-1. … Idaho’s Alyssa Charlston was honored at the New Mexico tournament. … 6-3 freshman Carli Rosenthal (Coeur d’Alene) has started the last three games for Saint Mary’s and is second on the team in rebounding at 7.7. … Portland’s Natalie Day was named the WCC Player of the Week for the third time in three weeks. The surprising Pilots are 5-3 with wins over Portland State and Montana before losing to Eastern on Tuesday night. Gonzaga opens WCC play against Portlant on Dec. 29. … EWU senior Brianne Ryan is averaging 20.7 points a game to lead the Big Sky Conference. Eagles point guard Chene Cooper is at 6.3 assists to lead the conference and is second in steals at 2.7. … Gonzaga is third in the nation in scoring at 88 points a game and leads in assists (22.0) and assists-to-turnovers (1.76). … Brooke Randall, a Wenatchee grad and transfer from CCS, is starting for 7-1 Eastern Oregon and leads the Mountaineers in scoring at 12 per game. Kyle Miller of Cheney has started half the games and is third on the team at 9.8 ppg.