While many bracketologists already have Washington State’s women penciled into the NCAA Tournament field, Kamie Ethridge and the Cougars still have another opportunity to make sure they’ll be playing meaningful basketball two weeks from now.
No. 7 WSU (11-10, 9-10) will take on No. 10 Utah (5-15, 4-15) on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. Tipoff between the Cougars and Utes is at 5 p.m. and the game will air on the Pac-12 Networks.
Entering Wednesday’s game, the Cougars are considered by ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme to be among the “last four in” when it comes to the NCAA Tournament field. Creme projects WSU as a No. 11 seed, but the Cougars could move themselves off the bubble by winning one or multiple games in Vegas.
If WSU beats Utah, it would face second-seeded Arizona in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
The Cougars are 2-0 this season against the Utes, who enter the conference tournament on a five-game losing streak. WSU lost four consecutive games from Feb. 7-19, but broke out of the slump with a 68-55 victory over Utah on Feb. 21. The Cougars edged the Utes 79-74 in a Jan. 1 meeting in Salt Lake City.
WSU freshman sensation Charlisse Leger-Walker has scored 45 points in two games against Utah and will play in her first conference tournament game two days after winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, becoming the first WSU player to win the award in 23 years.
Leger-Walker was the first freshman to lead the Pac-12 in total points at the end of the regular season, scoring 407 in 21 contests and averaging 19.4 points per game.
The New Zealand native also led the Cougars with 2.3 steals per game, was second with 3.2 assists per game and third with 5.9 rebounds per game. Her 19.4 points per game mark the highest scoring average by a freshman in program history.
“I feel very privileged and honored to be recognized,” Leger-Walker said in a school news release. “Obviously, that isn’t what I play for, but it’s cool to get recognized by people outside of your team. This award kind of represents the type of success we’re having as a team this year.
“It’s been a great first season, for me personally and for the team. A lot of learning curves and a lot of successes along the way. A lot of history this year as well, and it’s been really cool to be a part of.”
Krystal Leger-Walker, the older sister of WSU’s freshman guard, earned an All-Pac-12 defensive selection when conference awards came out Monday.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.