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News / Sports / College

Washington State holds on for win over No. 2 UCLA

Cougars triumph despite knee injury to Leger-Walker

By JOE REEDY, Associated Press
Published: January 28, 2024, 4:49pm
2 Photos
Washington State center Bella Murekatete, right, defends against UCLA guard Kiki Rice during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Washington State center Bella Murekatete, right, defends against UCLA guard Kiki Rice during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun) Photo Gallery

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bella Murekatete and Eleonora Villa helped lead Washington State to one of the biggest wins in program history Sunday afternoon. The Cougars 85-82 victory over No. 2 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion though came at a cost.

All-Pac-12 guard Charlisse Leger-Walker suffered a knee injury during the second half. Coach Kamie Ethridge said she Leger-Walker was looked at by doctors but they will wait for the MRI before knowing anything definitive.

“I don’t think it looks good. We’ll wait and see what the picture looks like. But, you know, it generally doesn’t ever end up well,” Ethridge said. “You’ve just got to be patient and and then figure out the next plans for her.”

Leger-Walker — an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection last season — suffered the non-contact injury with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter and with the Cougars holding a 48-32 lead. The senior guard was taken to the locker room and had 17 points.

“I think she was trying to draw a little contact on a breakaway and you know, the way she plants and things like that and really good players,” Ethridge said. “It’s a move she makes, you know, thousands of times a year. So, I don’t think it was anything at all other than going hard for the basket.”

Despite not having their primary ballhandler for most of the second half, the Cougars (15-6, 4-4 Pac-12) held on despite nearly blowing a 20-point lead.

Murekatete had 20 points and eight rebounds, including a pair of free throws with 18 seconds remaining to put the Cougars up by three. After a timeout, UCLA had a final chance to send it to overtime but the Bruins missed all three potential tying 3-pointers in the final 11 seconds, including one by Kiki Rice that went off the glass as time expired.

It was the highest-ranked team the Cougars have defeated in program history, eclipsing the 66-58 win over then-No. 3 Utah in last year’s Pac-12 Tournament.

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“To beat number two, that’s a program changer,” Ethridge said. “It’s not something we talked about before but I love how we competed.”

The Cougars shot 60.5% from the field for the first three quarters, but were 3 of 10 in the final 10 minutes. However, they were 14 of 18 from the foul line in the fourth and 27 of 34 for the game.

Villa added 18 points and Tara Wallack had 14 points, including 12 of 14 from the line.

Kiki Rice had 25 points and Charisma Osbourne added 20 and Londynn Jones 19 for UCLA (16-3, 5-3), which has dropped two of its last three.

UCLA trailed 52-32 early in the second half but got the deficit down to 12 at the end of the third quarter. The Bruins opened the fourth on a 15-7 rally that included four 3-pointers to get within 72-68.

A pair of free throws by Villa put Washington State up 81-75 with 54 seconds left, but the Bruins made a final late push to make it a one possession game late. Rice had five points during a 7-2 run, including a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining as Washington State held on to an 83-82 advantage.

“I think throughout the entire game, even though we were down 16 at half, we had a consistent belief that we would find a way to come out in the second half and find a way to win,” Rice said.

Leger-Walker and Murekatete combined to go 12 of 16 from the field in the first half as Washington State had a 46-30 advantage at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Washington State: Leger-Walker’s injury not only impacts Washington State, but New Zealand women’s basketball team. She was slated to be with the Tall Ferns with the Olympic qualifying tournament starts on Feb. 8.

UCLA: Lauren Betts missed her second straight game due to a non-disclosed medical issue, and her presence in the paint was needed as the Cougars dominated inside.

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