CouGals fall but coach eyes post-season berth

SEATTLE – The Washington State women's basketball team had yet to play a game this season when June Daugherty promised the Cougars would make their first post-season appearance In more than two decades. The veteran coach was not about to back down from that statement after the Cougars lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals Saturday night.

"We'll play in the post-season somewhere," Daugherty declared.

The Cougars, outstanding in their first two tournament games, were thoroughly outplayed by the young Beavers. The 70-60 defeat may have cost Washington State a shot at the NCAA tournament – Daugherty said she has not ruled out an NCAA bid – but the 17-16 Cougars might be headed to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

The NCAA and WNIT fields will be announced next Monday. The Cougars' last post-season appearance came in 1991, when they played in their only NCAA tournament.

Daugherty certainly hopes standout guard Lia Galdeira will be available for post-season play. Galdeira took a hard fall early in the semifinal and played with her left wrist and a couple of fingers heavily taped.

Daugherty said she expected Galdeira to get X-rays after the game.

"Gutsy kid," Daugherty said. "She's a warrior … you could tell she was in a lot of pain."

Galdeira still managed to score 16 points and set the tournament scoring record of 75 points. However, she hit just 7 of 20 shots against the Beavs.

The Cougars scored a record 258 points in their three-game tournament run, but they had to rally late to prevent a rout Saturday before a crimson-tinted crowd of 6,073 (second-most in tournament history).

After scoring 107 and 91 points in their first two games at KeyArena, the Cougars were held to 20 points and 26.7 percent shooting in the first half Saturday. WSU finished at 32.5 percent.

"We started nervous," WSU center Shalie Dheensaw said. "Shots weren't falling. Hats off to Oregon State. They were hitting their shots."

"Washington State is such an explosive offensive scoring team," Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. "I thought we did a great job defending them."

Junior wing Ali Gibson – one of just two upperclassmen on the Beavers – and freshman Sydney Wiese both sank five shots from 3-point range. The Beavers, who rank among the top 3-point teams in the nation, wound up hitting 45.5 percent on treys and 44.4 percent overall. Wiese finished with 20 points, and Gibson had 16.

The third-seeded Beavers (23-9), who have won 11 straight games, led from the first basket. The seventh-seeded Cougars trailed 33-20 before they made adjustments at the half.

"We wanted to get the tempo back up," Daugherty said. "We felt like we got lulled to sleep with the different defenses that Oregon State was playing. Obviously, our shots weren't falling."

Junior guard Tia Presley led the Cougars with 18 points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot-4 Dheensaw struggled mightly against 6-6 Ruth Hamblin. Dheensaw missed all seven of her shots, scored one point and had no rebounds. Hambling, the Pac-12's all-time leading shot blocker, had seven blocks, 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Cougars fell behind by 22 before making a late charge.

"There's no quit in this group," Daugherty said.

"We put our hearts out on the floor," forward Mariah Cook said.

"I'm really proud of our kids," Daugherty said. "I thought they had a great tournament."

Oregon State will play fifth seed USC (21-12) in the title game tonight at 6 on ESPN. The Trojans shocked top-seeded Stanford 72-68 despite the 30 points, 21 rebounds and five blocked shots of Cardinal star Chiney Ogwumike. The fourth-ranked Cardinal (29-3) had won the tournament seven straight years.

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