Daugherty: Young CougGals fight inconsistency

WSU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL coach June Daugherty said last week that youth and injuries have cost her Cougars consistency so far in this young season. Perhaps appropriately, they're 5-5 with one non-conference game remaining -- today at Nevada -- before Pac-10 play opens on Jan. 1. Still, the third-year coach has reasons to smile.

It is a topic so common among Washington State coaches that it almost has become clichéd.

When Daugherty, in her third-year at the Cougar helm, was asked to make an opening statement last Tuesday during the Pac-10 women's basketball teleconference, she was able to borrow a page directly from Paul Wulff and/or Ken Bone.

"Ninety percent of our team is freshmen and sophomores," she said. "I think they are working extremely hard to understand our system. I certainly like the direction we are going."

ONE PLAYER DAUGHERTY praised effusively was freshman point guard KiKi Moore. The 5-foot-8 graduate of Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco has started every game for WSU and leads the team in points per game (13.6), assists (34) and steals (38).

"KiKi Moore is one of those special kids; they don't come along too often," said Daugherty, who have a nod to the excellent coaching more had in high school. "She's a pretty experienced young lady in knowing how to win."

Daugherty noted that Moore is in the gym at 6:30 a.m. daily to work on her shot. Shoting has been an area of struggle for the team as a while this season. They Cougs are converting just 33.8 percent of their field goals. Moore is shooting 44.7 percent from the field.

In addition to her work ethic, Moore brings leadership and "calmness" to the court, Daugherty said. The freshman also shine on defense.

"She understands defense and how it's paramount to win at this level," Daugherty said. "She reads the ball very well on the floor. She makes plays where you look at your assistants and say, 'Whoa, how did she see that?' "

THOSE HIGHLIGHTS HAVE come around a team whose regulars include just one player with more than a year of college experience. Forward Katie Madison, a junior forward who transferred from Idaho, has started five games. Another forward, junior Katie Calderwood, is a deep reserve, while 6-foot walk-on senior Amy Waltenburg only has played one game.

In addition to the Cougars' lack of experience, 6-foot-8 sophomore Jessica Oestreicher suffered a season-ending knee injury in the off-season. German freshman guard Ireti Amojo, perhaps the most athletic player on the team, played just one game before sustaining a knee injury in practice that will sideline her for the rest of the campaign. Daugherty said both players will redshirt.

"I guess the good news is we'll get them back and get another year out of them," she said. "It takes time to adjust. I think we did have to change some things because of the depth issues.

"It's a work in progress for us," she said. "As coaches, we have to be very patient and consistent at this level to win. I think this is a great group of talented young women."

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