How much history can the Washington State women’s basketball team make this season?
A little more, coach Kamie Ethridge said Monday.
Less than 24 hours after the Cougars shocked seventh-ranked Arizona in overtime Sunday, they were ranked 25th in this week’s Associated Press media poll.
The ranking is the first in program history. WSU is the last school from a Power 5 conference to make the AP Top 25 in women’s basketball.
WSU picked up 73 points in the poll released Monday morning. The program has received votes on 10 occasions since the 2015-16 season, including three votes last week.
“I’m extremely happy for this team. I was not aware that WSU had never in its history been ranked,” Ethridge said. “We realize, however, that it’s fleeting if we don’t stay focused on today and the next great challenge before us.”
That would be this weekend for games at USC and No. 8 UCLA. After that, the road gets even more challenging, with road games in Oregon and a two-game homestand toward the end of the month against top-rated Stanford.
However, those challenges don’t seem nearly as daunting as they did a few weeks ago. Picked to finish last in the Pac-12 and losing several key players from last season, the Cougars have defied expectations.
At 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Pac-12, the Cougars are also ranked 34th in the all-important NET rankings. That would put them on track for the biggest moment of all: WSU’s first berth in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s truly a great accomplishment for this program,” Ethridge said. “This summer I pointed out that there are no banners hanging in our gym and I shared that we could be a team that accomplishes a lot of firsts.”
It was all made possible by the Cougars’ dramatic overtime home victory over Arizona.
With the score tied at 69, Ethridge told the team to put the ball in the hands of freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker, who drove through traffic for a left-handed layup.
The ball rolled around the rim, then dropped through the net as time expired to give WSU a 71-69 victory.
It was the Cougars’ first decision over a top-10 team since Jan. 6, 2017, when WSU knocked off No. 9 UCLA in Pullman.
Arizona is the highest-ranked team ever to lose to Washington State.
The huge game lifted Leger-Walker to her third straight Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award and her fourth of the season.
The guard from Waikato, New Zealand, becomes the third player in Pac-12 history to earn freshman of the week in three consecutive weeks, joining Washington’s Kelsey Plum, who first accomplished the feat back 2013-14, and California’s Kristine Anigwe, who did it on two separate occasions during the 2015-16 season.
Leger-Walker scored a team-best 17 points against Arizona.