The officiating was … questionable … down the stretch.
After struggling throughout the first three quarters, Charlisse Leger-Walker buried a huge three with 50 seconds to go to pull WSU within two. On the ensuing defensive possession, Johanna Teder was whistled for a touch foul. WSU coach Kamie Ethridge, understandably upset over the call, received a technical foul that gave Arizona four free throw attempts and possession. Arizona took advantage and turned the fouls into a 5-point possession that pushed the Wildcat lead up to seven, sealing the win for Arizona.
Arizona jumped out to a hot start, holding the Cougars to just three points in the first 9:55 of play and took a 13-5 lead into the second quarter. The national runner-ups seemed poised to flex their muscles and run away with this one early. But the Cougars weren’t going down quietly. In the final five minutes of the second quarter, the Cougars went on a 14-2 run to take a 24-23 lead into halftime over the top four Wildcats.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room and showed why they’re ranked forth in the country. The Cougars got the lead up to three before the Wildcats went on a 22-4 run to the end the third quarter up by 15. Once again, it appeared the Wildcats had the game in control, but again, the Cougars didn’t quit. The Cougar defense kept the Wildcats in check while the WSU offense went to work chipping away at the lead. The game stayed in a 50-40 stalemate for nearly three minutes before Bella Murekatete went on a personal four-point run to pull WSU back within two possessions.
Krystal Leger-Walker hit a huge three with 92 seconds left to keep WSU alive, only trailing by four. Arizona’s next two possessions only netted one point on a free throw as the Cougar defense, and some free throw luck, continued to keep the ‘Cardiac Cougs’ right on the doorstep. Charlisse only had two points going into the final two minutes of the game, but scored five huge points to pull WSU into a one-possession game in the final minute with the No. 4 team in the country. The tough foul call and technical on the next possession that all but sealed the win for the Wildcats was a gut-punch to a Cougar team that fought so hard to stay with one of the best teams in the nation without even playing their best game offensively.
WSU proved they can hang with the best of them and were just a few shots away from pulling off a massive upset in a hostile environment. The Cougars were originally supposed to stay in the Grand Canyon State to play the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday before COVID issues postponed the game. The Cougars will instead head to USC to play the Trojans next on Friday.