PULLMAN – Freshman star Charlisse Leger-Walker helped Washington State knock off its highest-ranked opponent.
Leger-Walker scored the first nine points and the final nine of the game for WSU on Friday, as the Cougars upset No. 5 UCLA 67-63 for their first victory over a team ranked in the top five.
Leger-Walker, who led all scorers with 28 points, hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left that lifted the Cougars to a 64-63 lead they didn’t relinquish. She added three free throws as the Bruins failed to score again.
“It made me feel so proud for the team and where we’re headed,’ ” the New Zealand native said of the victory. “I’m so proud of the way we continue to improve.
“It puts more confidence in our team to know we can get it done.”
WSU beat No. 7 Arizona last month, which led to its first appearance on the AP Top 25. But last week the Cougars were routed in consecutive games by No. 6 Stanford. Leger-Walker was held in check both of those losses.
“I knew we couldn’t dwell on those games,” she said. “We had to refocus.
“It feels great to get shots up and see the ball fall through the hoop.”
The winner came after UCLA had dominated the fourth quarter.
“My shot felt good the whole game,” Leger-Walker said. “I knew that was a good shot to take.”
Her sister, senior Krystal Leger-Walker, added 10 points for the Cougars (9-6, 7-5, Pac-12), who are enjoying their best season in years. Last month, they lost to UCLA 68-66 in overtime.
Charisma Osborne had 21 points for UCLA (10-3, 8-3), which had won five straight. Michaela Onyenwere added 16 points for the Bruins, who missed two shots in the closing seconds.
UCLA coach Cori Close said her team did not focus.
“You are not going to beat good teams in the Pac-12 if you are not locked in mentally,” she said.
She called Charlisse Leger-Walker mature beyond her years.
“She’s got a very good balance of strength and aggression with skill and shooting ability,” Close said. “She’s one of the best freshmen in the country.”
The Bruins led 22-16 after the first quarter despite 11 points from Charlisse Leger-Walker.
WSU outscored the Bruins 19-13 in the second quarter for a halftime tie at 35.
The Cougars outscored UCLA 17-10 in the third, with seven points from Grace Sarver, to take a 52-45 lead. The Bruins made only 3 of 13 shots in the quarter.
“We were very poor in the third quarter on offense,” Close said.
The Washington State players hoisted coach Kamie Ethridge after the game, with most of the work done by Bella Murekatete. “She is just a wild child,” Ethridge said. The coach added that she only weighed ‘‘one hundred and plenty” pounds.
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