June D: Galdeira puts on ‘Superwoman kick'

SEATTLE – Once upon a time, the Oregon Ducks and just about everyone else beat Washington State like a drum in women’s basketball. Of course, that was before Lia Galdeira arrived in Pullman.

Galdeira, WSU’s explosive junior guard, poured in a career-high 34 points in a 66-64 triumph over the Ducks on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.

“Lia put on her Superwoman kick,” joked Cougars coach June Daugherty.

In spite of Galdeira’s heroics, a hard-fought contest did not end until Lexie Petersen launched a 3-point shot a split second after the final horn. The ball banked in off the glass, but it didn’t count. The Ducks finished 13-17 after losing to WSU for the fourth time in the past five meetings.

The Cougars (17-13) now advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. WSU takes on ninth-ranked Arizona State (26-4), the No. 2 seed, at 11:30 a.m. The Pac-12 Network televises the contest.

In their one meeting with ASU this season, the Sun Devils downed the Cougars 78-64 in Tempe on Jan. 5.

“With Arizona State, you’ve got to handle their pressure defense … we’ve really got to move the basketball,” Daugherty said. “Move the cutters. Don’t just let the ball stay on one side.”

Oregon coach Kelly Graves has said all season he believes Galdeira will be a WNBA first-round draft choice when she turns pro. Galdeira certainly looked like a pro at KeyArena, sinking 14 of 24 shots (6 of 10 from 3-point range).

The field goals made and 3-pointers made, like her points total, are career highs that threatened tournament records.

Galdeira rarely has much to say about herself after she plays a great game. Thursday was no exception.

“I just took what the defense gave me,” Galdeira said.

Galdeira opened up more when she talked about how she’s “playing for” seniors Shalie Dheensaw and Tia Presley. Galdeira said she was looking for Dheensaw when she stared at the Cougars’ bench area after hitting 3’s. For the third straight game, Galdeira ditched her No. 3 jersey and wore No. 23 in honor of Dheensaw.

“I want her to feel like she’s out there with us,” Galdeira explained.

Last year, Galdeira set an overall tournament record with 75 points in three games. The Hawaii native may have played even better Thursday before an estimated 600 spectators.

“An elite-level basketball player who had an amazing game,” Graves said.

Oregon freshman guard Lexi Bando added, “Lia Galdeira, that’s definitely a player I look up to. She played an amazing game.”

The Ducks led most of the way before back-to-back 3-pointers by Galdeira started a 13-0 run that pushed seventh-seeded WSU ahead 48-44 with 13 minutes left. Oregon star Jillian Alleyne hit the next two baskets to forge a tie, but Galdeira followed with a trey that gave the Cougars the lead for good. The 10th-seeded Ducks gave chase to the end, but came up just short.

The scrappy Presley scored 10 points, grabbed four rebounds, had a game-high four steals and made plenty of hustle plays.

“I’m so proud how hard the girls fought,” she said.

Daugherty was lavish in her praise of the Ducks’ effort.

“I thought they played their hearts out … they have improved immensely on both ends of the floor,” Daugherty said.

Oregon’s victory over 19th-ranked Stanford last Saturday lends some credence to Daugherty’s comment. However, the Ducks lost five of their last six games, and they finished near the bottom of the Pac-12 in points for and against. Oregon lost two of three games with the Cougars this season, but all the games were decided by three points or less.

“I thought down the stretch especially, they (the Cougars) appeared to want it maybe a little bit more. They made some of the bigger plays,” said Graves.

Alleyne recorded her nation-leading 28th double-double with team highs of 18 points and 18 rebounds. However, she missed the last five of her six free throws – Alleyne was the only Oregon player who went to the line – and she was 0-for-4 in the second half.

“She’s an amazing talent,” Daugherty said. The coach added, “This is probably the best we’ve ever done (against) her.”

Oregon made 11 of its 17 turnovers in the first half. WSU, the Pac-12 leader in steals, intercepted a number of poor passes by the Ducks. The Cougars made only seven turnovers and had a 26-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

“If you turn the ball over,” Graves said, “you just never get into the rhythm you want.”

Still, the Ducks shot 54 percent from the field, their best performance since sinking 54.8 percent against Utah State in the season opener. Oregon hit 64 percent in the first half.

“As a coaching staff,” Daugherty said, “we weren’t real happy. “’Sixty-four’ went up on the whiteboard (at halftime). Our defensive coordinator, Brian Holsinger, had a lot to say.”

The Cougars, who shot 42.2 percent for the game, limited to Oregon to 44 percent in the second half. Mariah Cooks, who matched Presley’s 10 points, worked hard against Alleyne and made a fine defensive play to thwart a potential game-tying layin in the final seconds.

“I want to congratulate Washington State,” Graves said. “They played a great game. They deserved it.”

NOTABLE NOTES: Eleven of WSU’s first 13 points came on seven turnovers.

The Cougars lost their first 10 games in the tournament, but they’re 6-3 over the past three years. The Cougars would have to win four games in four days to claim their first championship.

The tournament champion earns the league’s only automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. A win over Arizona State would boost WSU’s chances of receiving an at-large invitation. If the Cougars fall short of the Big Dance, a Women’s NIT bid seems likely. The Cougars played in the WNIT for the first time last season and finished 17-17 after losing at Montana. This year, WSU has made bids for first- and second-round games in Pullman.

Presley set the Greater Spokane League career scoring record (since broken) when she played at Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep high school. Prep is located a couple long 3-pointers from Gonzaga University. Graves did not recruit Presley, which once prompted Presley to say, “His loss, not mine.” Presley needs 13 points to pass Jenni Ruff for third in career points at Washington State.

Guard Caila Hailey accounted for all five of WSU’s bench points against Oregon. “I thought she had a tremendous game for a true freshman,” Daugherty said.

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