PULLMAN – A funny thing happened Thursday between what will prove by season’s end to be two outstanding women’s basketball teams.
A postseason-like game broke out in the second half, in which Charlissa Leger-Walker took over with dribble penetration for 24th-ranked Washington State and Gonzaga countered with long-distance shooting from Kaylynne Truong.
It took a Truong 3-pointer from 27 feet at the buzzer to send the game to overtime before the Cougars’ defense clamped down in overtime as Washington State prevailed 77-72 at Friel Court.
Leger-Walker hit one of her difficult driving baskets with 3 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in overtime that gave the Cougars (2-0) the lead for good at 70-69.
Truong hit a 3-pointer that pulled Gonzaga (1-1) within 73-72 with 2:21 to go, but the Zags wouldn’t score again.
Leger-Walker finished with a game-high 26 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. WSU’s Astera Tuhina added 15 points and seven rebounds.
Should the benefit of the doubt be given to teams that shoot poorly early in the season?
And should the benefit of the doubt be given to teams that commit double-figure turnovers in the opening half and 25 combined?
Hard to tell.
“This is just typical of how it’s played in the NCAA Tournament,” WSU coach Kamie Etheridge said. “We just did enough.”
Many of the shots appeared rushed.
But in the end, the Cougars’ defense and Leger-Walker were too much for Gonzaga to overcome.
Kaylynne Truong led Gonzaga with 22 points and six assists.
Yvonne Ejim, who fouled out at the 5:33 mark of the fourth quarter, had 18 points and five rebounds for the Zags.
“Our team really battled and played tough, but we got our butts kicked on (the boards) and it’s hard to win games on the road when you get outrebounded by that many and give up 20 points in the paint,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said.
It appeared WSU was going to pull away from Gonzaga when Leger-Walker converted a three-point play to put the Cougars ahead 53-43 with 6:33 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But the Zags fought back, regaining the lead at 62-61 when Kayleigh Truong made two free throws with 30.8 seconds to go in the fourth.
Leger-Walker hit another difficult basket moving through the key to put WSU back in front, 63-62.
The Cougars stayed ahead until Kaylynne Truong, the reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year, hit the 27-footer at the buzzer to knot the score at 67-67.
WSU made 27 of 61 shots from the field (44.3%) and Gonzaga made 25 of 67 (37.3%).
The Cougars finished with 24 turnovers to Gonzaga’s 18.
“Our turnovers obviously gave them opportunities more than what we’d want them to have,” Etheridge said. “There are some things we can learn from this game. I just love how Gonzaga plays. … This is a big win for us.”
In the first half, it was difficult to tell if both teams were a tad sloppy or if both teams were playing solid defense.
Kaylynne Truong’s 3-pointer at the 2:41 of the first quarter gave the Zags a 15-6 lead, their biggest of the opening half.
The Cougars used a 15-2 run to pull even at 21-21 with 5 minutes to play before halftime.
Gonzaga led throughout the first half. The Cougars tied it up three times before the teams went to halftime with the Zags ahead 26-25.
The statistic most telling of decent first-half defense was field-goal shooting. WSU made 11 of 29 from the field and the Zags were 10 of 25.
Both teams return to action Sunday when WSU plays host to Idaho State (2:30 p.m.) and the Zags make their home debut against Toledo (2 p.m.).
The Cougars were honored before the game with the raising of their first Pac-12 title banner and the handing out of rings.