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Washington State women rally past Cal in Pac-12 Tournament

Syndication: Arizona Republic

As Washington State Cougars guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (5) rebounds the ball, Arizona State Sun Devils guard Tyi Skinner (3) reacts at Desert Financial Arena on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Asu Womens Basketball Vs Washington State

Alex Gould/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

LAS VEGAS - Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 23 points, Bella Murekatete had a double-double and Washington State rallied to defeat California 61-49 in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday night.

After trailing for most of the first three quarters, a layup by Jessica Clarke gave the Cougars a five-point lead with 6:10 to go in regulation. The lead reached 53-45 1 1/2 minutes later when Astera Tuhina connected on a 3-pointer, just WSU’s second of the game in 15 attempts. Tuhina added a jumper on WSU’s next possession and the lead was 55-45 with 3:32 remaining.

Cal got within 55-49 on a fastbreak layup by Leilani McIntosh with 2:20 to go, but the Golden Bears did not score again.

Leger-Walker made 8 of 15 shots and 6 of 8 free throws to go with six rebounds and two assists. Murekatete had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Tuhina added nine points and four assists for Washington State (20-10).

Jayda Curry scored 16 points for the Golden Bears (13-17) and no other starter scored more than five. Ugonne Onyiah and Mia Mastrov scored 10 points each off the bench.

After Cal led 27-21 at halftime, a 3-pointer from Leger-Walker got the No. 7 seed Cougars within 38-36 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter. The Cougars hadn’t been that close since they trailed 11-10 in the first minute of the second quarter. The score was tied twice later in the third quarter and WSU took a 44-42 lead into the fourth period after Leger-Walker made two free throws with 15 seconds left in the period.

Washington State has won 20 games for the first time in the NCAA-era for women’s basketball. The 1978-79 team won 21 games.

Washington State advances to play No. 2-seed and regular-season co-champion Utah in the quarterfinals on Thursday.