LAS VEGAS (AP)Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 23 points, Bella Murekatete had a double-double and Washington State rallied to defeat California 61-49 in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday night.
After trailing for most of the first three quarters, a layup by Jessica Clarke gave the Cougars a five-point lead with 6:10 to go in regulation. The lead reached 53-45 1 1/2 minutes later when Astera Tuhina connected on a 3-pointer, just WSU’s second of the game in 15 attempts. Tuhina added a jumper on WSU’s next possession and the lead was 55-45 with 3:32 remaining.
Cal got within 55-49 on a fastbreak layup by Leilani McIntosh with 2:20 to go, but the Golden Bears did not score again.
Leger-Walker made 8 of 15 shots and 6 of 8 free throws to go with six rebounds and two assists. Murekatete had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Tuhina added nine points and four assists for Washington State (20-10).
Jayda Curry scored 16 points for the Golden Bears (13-17) and no other starter scored more than five. Ugonne Onyiah and Mia Mastrov scored 10 points each off the bench.
After Cal led 27-21 at halftime, a 3-pointer from Leger-Walker got the No. 7 seed Cougars within 38-36 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter. The Cougars hadn’t been that close since they trailed 11-10 in the first minute of the second quarter. The score was tied twice later in the third quarter and WSU took a 44-42 lead into the fourth period after Leger-Walker made two free throws with 15 seconds left in the period.
Washington State has won 20 games for the first time in the NCAA-era for women’s basketball. The 1978-79 team won 21 games.
Washington State advances to play No. 2-seed and regular-season co-champion Utah in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
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