It was the one that got away. The Arizona Wildcats were up by as many as 16 and never trailed in regulation. But Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State’s star freshman, heroically brought her team back to tie it at the buzzer.
Then, she hit the dagger to win it at the buzzer of the extra period. The next day, the Cougars were ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history.
“Thanks to us, we allowed Washington State to be ranked last time,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “So we allowed them to get some history. So, don’t make that same mistake again. Don’t go have a great win and follow it up with a bad loss.”
That bad loss, made possible by squandering a 16-point lead, still stings. On the positive side, Barnes sees the path towards avenging it..
“We had an amazing first half,” Barnes said. “And then the second half happened. If I could just erase the second half, I would have been happy. But just playing basketball like we should. I think the difference in watching film again last night, we are better than we were at Washington State. We are better than a month ago. Our offense is better. Our defense is better.”
The Wildcats also need to make sure their bigs stay out of foul trouble. In Pullman, Trinity Baptiste picked up two fouls in the first quarter. Cate Reese had her second with 6:14 still left to play before the half.
In what has been a familiar script for Reese this season, a hot start was stopped in its tracks by early foul trouble. She had nine points when she went to the bench with two fouls. She ended the game with 10, never getting back in an offensive groove once she returned to the floor.
Another consequence of that foul trouble was the play of the Cougars’ Bella Murekatete. The sophomore center was their leading scorer during regulation. She did much of the heavy lifting to keep things from getting even more out-of-hand until Leger-Walker got hot in the second half and overtime.
“We’ve worked a lot on her being in better positions so that doesn’t happen, because the main thing is we need Cate on floor,” Barnes said. “Cate is one of our most aggressive post players. She gives us a scoring presence inside. So it hurts us when Cate’s out with foul trouble. And that has happened a lot this year—more than last year. Some of it’s because she’s guarding the five a lot. But I think the last couple games, she’s done a better job of being in better position, not getting those early fouls or not going for them.”
Just four days after going off for 25 points against No. 11 Oregon, Reese should certainly have the confidence to have a stronger game than she did at Washington State.
How to follow the action
- Date/Time: Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 at 7 p.m. MST
- Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
- TV: Pac-12 Networks (Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona, Pac-12 Washington)
- Radio: Derrick Palmer will have the call on KTUC 1400 AM or online at TuneIn
- Stats: In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats
- Twitter: Follow us at @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our editor at @RKelapire and our reporter at @KimDoss71 for coverage during the game and throughout the season.