WSU women run, gun, make history on Duck hunt

TIA PRESLEY

SEATTLE – It was basketball on Red Bull. A track meet in high tops. And, most significantly, one of the most entertaining events at KeyArena since the Sonics were banished to a dirt patch in the middle of nowhere. Washington State's 107-100 win over Oregon was not just a score-a-thon, but it was one that produced the most points by both a single team and combined in a Pac-12 Tournament game.

It also was the most points by one team (59) and two teams combined (114) in a half. The Cougars led 59-55 halfway through 40 minutes of play best summarized as "run, gun, reload and shoot some more hoops" at a frantic pace that would have exhausted plenty of men's teams.

"This," WSU coach June Daugherty said, "was a fun game."

And that just may be the first understatement ever made by the omni-enthusiastic Daugherty.

"If you can't get excited about women's basketball in the Pac-12 after seeing what just happened, then I don't know," Daugherty said. "You have to check your pulse or whatever."

The Cougars have less than 24 hours to lower their pulses in time for Friday's quarterfinal with No. 20 California (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) at KeyArena. The second-seeded Golden Bears (21-8), who beat the seventh-seeded Cougars (16-15) in overtime last week in Berkeley, had a first-round bye.

Asked whether she's concerned that her team might have trouble recovering from such a high-tempo contest, Daugherty said, "It's March Madness, so, no. Our kids practice hard. They're in great shape.

"Our kids can rest all spring and summer."

The Cougars hope that rest follows their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991. Failing that, they can take solace in the fact that they will finish the Pac-12 tourney with no worse than a .500 season record. That qualifies them for consideration by the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), where the Pac-12 is highly regarded.

"It's something at the end of this tournament that we can talk about," Daugherty said. "But right now, we've got to get ready for Cal.

"It's an exciting time for us."

The Cougars received timely contributions from a battalion of players Thursday. Season scoring leaders Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira tied for game honors with 31 points each. It was the first time in WSU women's basketball history that two players scored 30 or more points in a game.

Center Shalie Dheensaw added 15 points and 11 rebounds; guard Taylor Edmondson came off the bench to deliver a career-high 14 points and four 3-pointers, and point guard Dawnyelle Awa – referred to by Daugherty as "the straw that stirs the drink" – added four points and a game-high three steals. Awa also matched the career-high eight assists she notched two weeks ago in a 108-88 triumph over the Ducks in Pullman.

Somewhat lost amidst all the scoring was the fact that WSU turned the ball over just eight times against Oregon's presses and traps.

"That's extremely impressive," Presley said.

The Cougars, who lead the Pac-12 in turnover margin, scored 18 points off 19 Oregon turnovers. WSU doubled Oregon in assists (22-11) to make up for a 61-42 deficit on the boards in front of a crimson-tinted crowd of 3,754.

Chrishae Rowe, the nation's leading freshman scorer, led Oregon with 29 points. Star forward Jillian Alleyne added 28 points and a whopping 21 rebounds – she broke the year-old Pac-12 record of 466 rebounds in a season held by Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike – but was also charged with 11 turnovers.

The Ducks (15-15) are eligible for the WNIT, but it remains to be seen whether the nation's No. 1 scoring team will keep playing. Oregon coach Paul Westhead was told earlier in the week that his contract will not be renewed.

The 75-year-old Westhead, a former NBA, WNBA and men's college coach, said he is still interested in coaching.

"What an honor and privilege it has been to coach against Paul at Oregon," Daugherty said. "I've learned so much from him and admire him.

"I wish him and his staff all the best. I'd also like to salute their entire team, especially their seniors. I can't imagine how tough it was for them to come in here and play with everything that was going on."

To their credit, Westhead and his players offered no excuses for the loss. Not that any were necessary. The Cougars had to shoot 46.6 percent from the field (including 38.5 percent on 3-pointers) and score the fourth-most points in program history to send the Ducks down to defeat.

"They shot the ball very well," Westhead said. "They minimized their turnovers. We do our best to kind of frazzle teams."

But on this night, the Cougars proved frazzle-proof.

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