SEATTLE – The Washington State women’s basketball team shot lights-out for a second consecutive night as the Cougars knocked off No. 20 California 91-83 in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament.
The seventh-seeded Cougars scored just enough to keep ahead of the rebounding and scoring forwards of the second-seeded Golden Bears, who last year advanced to the Final Four. The Cougars (17-15) face Oregon State (22-9) tonight in a semifinal.
“It was a battle,” coach June Daugherty said. “The score doesn’t reflect how difficult the game really was.”
After the scoring tandem of Spokane’s Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira each scored 31 points in the 107-100 win Thursday night over Oregon, the guards kept sinking huge shots that never let Cal retake control.
“I think Washington State earned every bit of this win,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They played better. They coached better. They shot better. We tried to hang in there, but we didn’t quite have enough.”
Galdeira led all scorers with 28, including a fast-break pull-up 3-pointer that Daugherty said she questioned until the shot went through the rim.
“When they go in – great job,” Daugherty said, laughing.
But the biggest shot of the night came from Presley. The 5-foot-9 junior had 14 first-half points but sat several minutes in the second half in foul trouble.
California fought back within six points on a Gennifer Brandon basket with under 2 minutes to play. Washington State brought up the ball but Galderia couldn’t find a shot. She found Presley, who dribbled and forced up a 3-pointer that hit just as the shot-clock buzzer sounded.
“It was a total adrenaline rush,” Daugherty said of Presley’s shot. “The towels were waving, the kids jumping up and down – that’s what college sports are all about. That was the straw that broke them.”
Gottlieb said her team knew they had to guard Galdeira and Presley coming into the game. But senior forward Sage Romberg scored 16 points and sophomore forward Mariah Cooks carried WSU for stretches with the 12 points she scored inside.
“Washington State presented a particular problem because they have four of them who can shoot,” Gottlieb said. “They kept making shots. I give credit to them. They did what they do really well and it was a problem for us.”
The teams traded blows from the opening tipoff as California relied heavily on 6-foot guard Afure Jemerigbe. The Golden Bears pounded the ball inside all night to forwards Reshanda Gray and Gennifer Brandon.
The teams tied each other nine times and changed leads six times in the first half as Washington State took the lead for good when Dawnyelle Awa hit a shot with 24 seconds before the half. The Cougars then held on for a 45-44 lead at half time.
While the Cougars never lost the lead, the Golden Bears never went away. California chipped the lead down to six points when Brandon, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, hit a shot with 1:55 to play.
It’s then that Presley hit the shot that sparked the WSU celebration.
While Cooks’ inspired play helped the Cougars retain the lead down the stretch, it was Romberg’s timely shooting in the first half that kept WSU one step ahead. She finished with 16 points and five rebounds.
“I was just trying to take what the other team was giving me,” said Romberg, who was 6 of 8 from the field, including three 3s. “I was just glad to get some points on the board.”
That hasn’t been a problem for Washington State, which shot 47 percent from the field while losing the rebound battle 48-39.
Presley finished with 19 points. Taylor Edmonson again hit some big shots scored seven points. Shalie Dheensaw was tough inside with eight points and five rebounds.
Cal’s Gray scored 26 points.