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Saturday, October 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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NCAA women’s basketball: Life in Pac-12 rough sledding for Cougars

The Washington State women’s basketball team found out twice last week how razor-thin the margin can be between winning and finding itself in a 1-3 hole to start conference play.

The Cougars clawed their way back to within six points of California’s lead with 2:27 remaining Friday before its shooters went cold in the 70-62 defeat in Pullman.

Then on Sunday, the Cougars surrendered an eight-point lead to then-No. 15 Stanford with about eight minutes remaining. However, Lia Galdeira tied the game at 71 with 3 seconds remaining only to have Stanford win 86-76 in overtime at Friel Court.

“The Bay Area schools are very good,” Daugherty said. “We had opportunities in both games. We went to overtime (with Stanford) but weren’t able to get it done. But we learned a lot about our team.”

Coach June Daugherty predicted at the beginning of the season that the Pac-12 slate would be a “meat grinder.”

“Looking at what we have been up against and looking at the results of the other 11 teams,” Daugherty said, “it’s just going to be a war right to the end with all 18 games.”

It gets no easier for the Cougars as they travel this week to take on No. 9 Oregon State (14-1, 4-0 Pac-12), which has notched conference wins over UCLA, USC and twice has crushed rival Oregon. The Beavers’ only loss this season came to then No. 8 Tennessee.

“They are holding their opponents to under 50 points a game,” Daugherty said. “Offensively, they have so many weapons. It will be a great challenge for us.”

Daugherty said the key for the Cougars will be to make sure all five players on the court play in concert with each other “so we don’t’ give up the open looks.”

After the Friday game in Corvallis, the Cougars travel Sunday to play former Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves and Oregon (8-7, 1-3 Pac-12), which got handled twice by the Beavers this past weekend.

“We know that just like all of our Pac-12 trips, they are not just for sightseeing,” Daugherty said. “We will be playing against very good basketball teams at both schools.”

In addition to the grind of conference play, the Cougars have battled the flu. Daugherty said six or seven players have missed practice time while battling the illness.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have paid for the flu shots,” Daugherty joked. “We’ll get them ready and strong. They are excited about the challenge ahead of us both at Oregon State and Oregon.”

Eagles clip Vandals

A bus driver, who apparently refused to drive on certain roads Saturday, got the Idaho Vandals to Reese Court with very little time for the Vandals to prepare to take on Eastern, which won a 71-65 thriller.

“Our kids got on the floor 50 minutes before the game. It was a joke,” coach Jon Newlee said. “It didn’t cost us the game, but it didn’t help.”

Newlee, whose squad ran roughshod on the Western Athletic Conference last year, said his team’s return to the Big Sky has found much more talented opponents.

“Every night is rough in the Big Sky,” he said. “The depth of the league is great.”

One player adding depth to the Vandals is freshman forward Geraldine McCorkell. She came off the bench for 10 first-half points. She finished the game with 14 points and nine boards.

“She’s really come along for a freshman. I thought she played great,” Newlee said. But McCorkell, of Melbourne, Australia, has been battling an illness and “ran out of gas. That stopped our momentum.”

Idaho trailed 66-63 with under a minute to go, but the Eagles “hit their big shots when they needed to and pulled out a win,” Newlee said. “Wendy (Schuller) has done a fantastic job up here.”

Idaho and Eastern Washington both host Portland State (3-12, 1-3) and Sacramento State (5-10, 3-1) this weekend.

Zags return to MAC

Gonzaga is seeking its seventh consecutive victory when it hosts Pepperdine (6-10, 1-4 WCC) on Thursday and Loyola Marymount (2-14, 0-5 WCC) on Saturday.

The Zags and Pacific are the only two West Coast Conference teams to remain undefeated in conference play. The Tigers took St. Mary’s to overtime before prevailing 88-86 on Saturday at Moraga, California.

However, Pacific must travel this week to BYU and San Diego. The Tigers then host Portland before Gonzaga comes to call on January 24.

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