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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougs ready to rebound against Utes

Three of the four area Division I women’s basketball teams are trending upward and one wants to give a little payback to the school that started it on a 1-6 skid. Last month, Washington State (12-12, 6-6) appeared to find itself when it raced out to a 5-0 record in the Pac-12. And, it had an upcoming home game against a Utah squad that at the time was 8-9 and 0-5 in the conference. The Utes, including 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman Nakia Arquette from Spokane, won that Jan. 19 game 59-57 and the Cougars have won only once since then. “We were disappointed, obviously, in the outcome and the way we played” at home against Utah, coach June Daugherty said. “We have to play a lot sharper. Each night you have to play 40 minutes of great basketball or you are not going to get it done.” Arquette, who played at Lewis and Clark, didn’t score in the first WSU game, but she is averaging 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds a game for the Utes. In losses last week to No. 22 California and No. 6 Stanford, Washington State gave up a combined 80 points in the paint. Chiney “Ogwumike, Ogwumike, Ogwumike,” Daugherty said, referring to the Stanford star who scored 36 points and grabbed 17 rebounds against the Cougars. “She’s the best post player in the country. She’s pretty much unstoppable.” The Golden Bears had two players reach double figures in rebounds against WSU, with Gennifer Brandon grabbing 20 in the win. “Cal continues to have five McDonald’s All-Americans, all over 6-2, who are about as athletic as you can get,” Daugherty said. “Can we get better scoring in the paint? Yes. But you will probably see those numbers (against) anybody in the country.” On the flip side, the No. 20 Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves said he is very pleased how his post players have responded to physical teams, such as San Diego and BYU, who has 6-7 senior Jennifer Hamson roaming the paint. “I think (Shelby Cheslek) has really come of age inside,” Graves said of the 6-5 sophomore center from Pullman. “She gives us a low-post presence that we haven’t had most of the year.” Against Pepperdine last week, Cheslek scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Graves said Cheslek, and the other Gonzaga post players, will be facing two physical teams who like to pound the basketball inside. Gonzaga travels to San Diego on Thursday and BYU on Saturday. “These are two really big road games,” Cheslek said. “We just need to make sure we play like we did against them at home.” The Bulldogs pounded the Toreros 79-50 and Cougars 68-42 in McCarthey Athletic Center last month. “After watching the games on tape, we weren’t great offensively,” Graves said of those two wins. “I think we can do better. But our energy has to be high because we are playing two really good teams. They can still catch us if we are not on our game.” Gonzaga (22-3, 12-1) remained this week at No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs enjoy a three-game lead over BYU and four-game lead over San Diego with five to play. Graves, who harps about taking one game at a time, said he doesn’t discuss national rankings with his team. “The rankings are great. It just means you are winning,” Graves said. “It doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s fleeting. It lasts only as long as your next loss.”

UI, EWU rolling

Idaho (17-7, 10-0) continues to impose its will on the Western Athletic Conference, notching road wins last week over New Mexico State and Texas-Pan American. And the Vandals finish with five of the last six conference games in Moscow. In Cheney, Eastern Washington avenged two earlier road losses by beating both Montana State and Montana last week to boost the Eagle’s record over 500 at 11-10. The Eagles also improved its Big Sky record to 7-5. But, EWU – which was picked to win the conference – is currently in a logjam in fourth place with Sacramento State and Idaho State. And it doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles. They have been clipped on road this year, with a painful 1-6 record for away games and 0-2 at neutral sites. Unlike Idaho, the Eagles finish the conference slate with three road games in the final five contests.