Canadian fueling CouGals' fire in the post

PULLMAN – Among the storylines in this so-far historic season for the Washington State women's basketball team is the emergence of junior forward Shalie Dheensaw. She's turned up the heat since conference games began and put an exclamation point on her emergence last week with back-to-back double-doubles in the Cougars' decades-in-coming sweep of Washington.

While guards Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley are the undisputed stars of the team, and senior forward Sage Romberg is the all-purpose old reliable, the 6-foot-4 Dheensaw's rise to prominence is a surprise to no one whose been paying attention.

"During summer and preseason practices we saw it as a team and as coaches they saw it too. Every day she was getting better," sophomore forward Mariah Cooks told this week. "The strides she's made from last season to this season are ridiculous."

A year ago, Dheensaw played in 29 games but didn't start a single one, and averaged just 2.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing.

This season she's started all 16 games and is averaging 7.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

But, oh, what she did against the Huskies last week.

In the first matchup against Washington, in Pullman last Tuesday, Cooks said it was "awesome" to see Dheensaw's improvements on display in a game that mattered so much for so many reasons.

Dheensaw posted 11 points and 14 rebounds in that game and then followed it up in Seattle on Saturday with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

In WSU's 4-0 run to start Pac-12 play, Dheensaw averaged 10.8 points and 12.3 rebounds per outing.

While Dheensaw says rebounding "is the only stat that I care about," there is perhaps no better barometer of her rapid rise than blocked shots. For the season, she has 17, second-most on the team behind Romberg. But get this: 11 of the 17 were collected over the first 12 games of the season and a whopping 8 of them have come over the last four contests.

The turning point?

Likely the two-a-day practices head coach June Daugherty put in place during the holidays, when the Cougs had 12 days between games.

"It wasn't fun," Dheensaw said of the regimen. "But it got us to isolate the post and the guards separately and start to focus on things that we needed to work on."

CouGals at home this Week

vs. No. 21 Colorado: 7 p.m. Friday, Live stream at

vs. Utah: Noon Sunday, Pac-12 Networks

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In addition to the extra practices, Dheensaw was in the gym on her own over the holidays, Daugherty noted.

Dheensaw credits teammates with pushing her to work hard, and says the full-speed 5-on-5 drills Daugherty puts them through are boosting intensity and motivation.

The Cougs will need every bit of that power source Friday at Friel Court, when they hope to extend their unprecedented Pac-12 start with a win over No. 21-ranked Colorado (11-4).

"I think we do great when we're the underdog team, so we're going to come out with a lot of fire," Dheensaw said. "We're looked as an underdog, but we know we can play as a ranked team, so when people look at us an underdog we take it almost as an insult and it excites us and it gets us going."

The Cougars, 10-6 overall, are 2-1 this season against top 25 teams. They defeated No. 10 Nebraska and No. 24 Arizona State and lost to No. 22 Gonzaga.


  • Dheensaw hails from Victoria, B.C. She chose WSU over offers from Oregon and Gonzaga.

  • Daugherty says Dheensaw's inner motivation and high basketball IQ are the secrets to her success. "(She) is somebody who played on Team Canada. She's played up a couple age levels, twice internationally," Daugherty noted. "And in our conversations, she really understands the game."

  • Daugherty said all of her post players were getting into foul trouble in the first half of the season and believes they lost some timing, and confidence, because of that." With the fouls now in check, the entire frontline is thriving, and confident again, she said.


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