In just six days, the Washington State Cougars women’s basketball team will head across the mountains to Seattle for the annual Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament. Similar to other conference tournaments, the winner of championship game (Sunday, 6:00 PDT on ESPN) will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Other teams look to use this tournament to strengthen their NCAA and NIT Tournament resumes, while the remaining teams will simply call it a season after leaving Seattle in this single-elimination tournament.
The Cougars (14-14-, 5-12) will head to the tournament as a surprisingly young team with a chip on its shoulder after what has been a disappointing regular season. After starting off non-conference play 9-2, the Cougars have trudged through their conference schedule. They have lost four of their conference games by a combined nine points, exposing a problem head coach June Daugherty and her teams have had the last several years: The inability to close out games. The Cougars endured a nine-game losing streak which was snapped last Sunday after a 62-61 win against Arizona down in Tucson. On Thursday night, the Cougars shot over 55% from the floor and defeated the Colorado Buffaloes, so if anything is going Washington State’s way, it’s that they have some momentum heading into next week’s tournament.
The Cougars’ struggle this season is not a surprise when you consider they took a blow offensively by losing leading scorers Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira last summer. While Presley was a senior and graduated from WSU, Galdeira, a junior, opted to sign a professional contract with Haskovo 2012, a women’s team located in Bulgaria. However, as the Cougars lost one star to Bulgaria, they gained another from the same country. Enter freshman guard Borislava Hristova, otherwise known as “Bobi Buckets” to her teammates. Tapping into the international recruiting market like the Cougars have done time and time again, Hristova came to Pullman ranked at the No.1 overall international collegiate recruit, according to NetScouts Basketball International.
The recipient of two Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards, Hristova leads the Cougars in scoring with 16.1 points per game and a field goal percentage of 45.2, both which land her in the top ten for the entire conference. Success doesn’t usually happen this quickly as it has for Hristova in her situation; usually it takes time for European basketball players to adjust to the higher level of competition in the United States, but Hristova’s production has made her one of the conference’s top scoring threats.
With this production as a freshman, it’s terrifying to think about her potential come her junior and senior seasons.
Washington State still has their regular season finale to play before heading to Seattle for the women’s tournament. They will tip-off against the Utah Utes (15-13, 7-10) on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. on what is Senior Day. Prior to the opening tip, the Cougars will honor their four seniors on the roster: guards Dawnyelle Awa, Taylor Edmondson, Alexas Williamson, and forward Mariah Cooks in what will be their final time taking the hardwood at Beasley Coliseum. The Cougars fell to Utah 73-71 earlier this season in Salt Lake City and a victory over them on Saturday would be a nice ending to the Cougars season.
KUGR Radio will have the live broadcast of Washington State’s games at the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, which gets underway on March 3 at KeyArena in Seattle.
As of right now, the Cougars are the ninth seed in the tournament meaning they will play the eighth seed in the first game of the tournament on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. This weekend’s women’s basketball game results obviously may change the Cougars current seeding, but they can’t fall any further than the tenth seed and can’t receive a higher seeding than the eighth seed due.