Slow start dooms Cougars in WNIT
WSU’s season ends in tourney’s first round
MISSOULA – Washington State had plans to run and score at Dahlberg Arena Wednesday, but the Montana Lady Griz had the quick start and strong finish, in a 90-78 win over the Cougars in the WNIT.
The Cougars had 22 points from Lia Galdeira and Sage Romberg added 18 in her final collegiate game, but much of that came too late. The Lady Griz (22-11), playing in front of a vocal crowd of 2,125, ran out to leads of 20-2, 19-8 and 35-19.
Washington State never came closer than eight and ended up 17-17.
“I don’t think we came out like we wanted to, or played defense like we wanted to,” said Romberg, whose left-handed quick release kept the Cougars in range. “We knew they were really good from the 3-point line and they were knocking them down, so I don’t think we did our job there.”
Montana shot 9 of 20 from 3-point range, with Jordan Sullivan, Kellie Cole and McCalle Feller hitting two each. Sullivan’s 3 gave UM that 35-19 lead, at 3:45 of the first half.
Not a lot went right the first 16 minutes. Top scorer Tia Presley picked up her second personal with 5:22 left in the half, and went into intermission with two points in 10 minutes of action.
Washington State did hold UM to one point in the final 3 minutes of the half, and a couple baskets from Mariah Cooks cut the gap to 36-25. When Presley hit her first three shots of the second half, ending with a 3-pointer at the 17:03 mark, the lead was down to 43-35.
The Cougars scored 53 points after halftime and couldn’t get any closer. Fouls caught up with them, and Montana kept draining open looks from beyond the arc.
Feller, making her first start, hit a three for a 54-41 UM lead with 14:32 left. Hannah Doran hit another for a 63-51 lead at the 9:05 mark and Kayleigh Valley hit again to make it 68-54 with 7:53 remaining.
Montana was missing both its point guards, Torry Hill and Haley Vining, who have knee injuries, and lost forward Carly Selvig to a knee injury 3 minutes into the game.
Sullivan had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the way inside; Cole moved over from shooting guard and scored 22 points to go with nine assists.
“They start out hot, and on fire, as they usually do at home,” said WSU coach June Daugherty. “And we didn’t get the defensive stops that we needed early, especially on Cole.
“Hats off to her. She played spectacularly.”
“I think we really wanted to run them, but they did a good job of getting back,” said Romberg, who hit a pair of 3-pointers and snared seven rebounds. “Lia and Tia’s floaters that usually go in, in transition, they weren’t falling for us.
“But I’m really proud that we are here, playing another game. Happy for the opportunity to play another game outside the season, and I’m sad it didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”
“Sage left it all out on the floor, as you’d expect any senior to do,” Daugherty said. “She’s had an amazing career at Washington State. Sage was recruited highly, by a lot of teams across the country. She came and believed in this program, and has had an amazing career.”