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

WSU women’s basketball: Shania Twain ‘honored’ that ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ became part of Cougs’ first Pac-12 championship celebration

By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

LAS VEGAS – Shania Twain knows all about the Washington State women’s basketball team, and they’ve impressed her much.

Last week at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, the Cougars celebrated an upset win by dancing and singing to their unofficial theme song, Twain’s hit single “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

Twain noticed.

“Love this,” she tweeted to nearly 1 million followers.

Three days later, the Cougs won the championship, the first in program history. Twain was in Europe but cared enough to find the time to attach the celebration video to another message on Twitter.

“Let’s Go Cougs! Congratulations to @WSUCougarWBB on the very deserved #Pac12WBB title win,” she wrote on Monday in a message punctuated by clapping hands and fire emojis.

Twain wasn’t done.

“I’m honored to have been a small part of your journey!! @WSUCougarWBB @pac12 #letsgogirls,” she wrote, referencing the song’s opening line with a video of the team screaming the lyrics, jumping up and down after beating UCLA to win the championship.

To be embraced by a celebrity like Twain made the moment even sweeter.

“We can’t even begin to tell you how happy this makes us!!!” the team replied to Twain’s tweet.

At this rate, don’t be surprised if Twain invites the Cougars onstage when she performs at the Spokane Arena on April 28.

Not a bashful bunch, the Cougs have already asked.

“Hey, we see that you’ll be in Spokane on April 28. We’re not that far from there… You feeling a duet with the Cougs that night in Spokane Arena????”

“That would be really cool,” Cougar forward Ula Motuga told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday. “That song has prepared us for some of our toughest challenges this year – being together, going out and giving our best every game.”

The tradition got its start from Motuga, a native Australian and a country music fan who “loves karaoke.”

As the Cougars prepared to open the season last fall with a traditional Midnight Madness event, each player was allowed to pick a song. Motuga went with “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

It wasn’t an immediate hit, but, as Motuga pointed out, “We’re a big karaoke team and we like to sing any time we can.”

By the time Pac-12 play began in January, the song became a pregame locker room tradition.

“It’s entrenched in who we are,” said Chris Caskey, an assistant director of communications at WSU.

On Feb. 23 in Los Angeles, it became so much more.

That night the Cougars were at UCLA, where they had never won.

Late in the game, with a slim lead getting even slimmer, the Cougs gathered for a timeout. As they sat, UCLA’s famous Pauley Pavilion was rocking to the sound of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

“They didn’t know that was our song,” Motuga said. “But when we realized that that song was playing, we just looked at each other. And we were giggling.”

WSU Coach Kamie Ethridge had other things in mind, like drawing up another play.

“But then Coach E. said, ‘just sing it,’ and we did,” Motuga said. “We regained our focus, and that’s when we knew we were going to win that game.”

Four wins later, the Cougs are Pac-12 champs and looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament. Wherever that takes them, Twain’ song will be there too.