SEATTLE — Washington State finally won in Seattle.
But not against Washington. With Husky players watching in a loud Connolly Center, WSU defeated Seattle University 81-72. The matchup was the first between the cross-state schools since 1986.
“They were two shots from going to the NCAA tournament last year,” Cougars coach June Daugherty said of why she scheduled the matchup. “We wanted a quality opponent that was well-coached and we got everything that we wanted out of (coach) Joan (Bonvicini) and SU.”
Seattle U freshman guard Alexis Montgomery worked with senior forward Kacie Sowell to pull the Redhawks to 77-71 with 1:12 left in the game. Montgomery made two driving layins and assisted Sowell on a bucket inside to close a deficit that once was 18 points in the second half.
Cougar junior guard Tia Presley made three of her four free throws and grabbed a key offensive rebound in the final 22 seconds to seal the win. The Cougars had a 23-12 advantage on offensive rebounds.
Sophomore guard Lia Galdeira led all scorers with 19 points, making her first three three-pointers to get WSU energized early. The Redhawks were led by Sowell’s 17 points. Sylvia Shephard didn’t play in the second half as a precautionary measure after injuring her right leg.
Washington State took control early, taking a 25-9 lead with 11:41 left in the first half.
“We were maybe a little scared,” senior Ashley Ward said of SU’s slow start. “In the second half, we realized we can play with them and that’s when we had the comeback.”
Former SU coach Dave Cox watched the revived matchup from the stands. He coached the Redhawks in the last meeting in 1986, remembering SU playing a competitive game — until former WSU coach Harold Rhodes started pressing.
“We couldn’t get the ball in,” Cox said of the defensive switch that turned a close matchup into a 91-65 blowout.
Tuesday had a similar feeling in terms of Seattle U not getting offensive rebounds. The Redhawks went the opening nine minutes of the game without getting one while shooting 33.3 percent from the field.
WSU used the same tenacity to open the second half, holding SU without an offensive board in the first five minutes for a 16-6 run and 57-39 lead.
WSU (1-1) was motivated. The Cougars were outrebounded 61-46 by Syracuse in a 69-65 loss in their season opener on Sunday.
“We were up at 7 a.m. and it was rebounding drill after rebounding drill,” Daugherty said of her team’s practice Monday. “That disparity was not acceptable. And our guards really responded. Tia and Galdeira, early in the game, went hard to the glass and got us second, third shots right away. They’re great scorers, but they set the tone for the team rebounding as well.”
SU’s matchup against WSU is the first of three against Pac-12 teams.
The Cougars play Friday in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu. It’s a homecoming for Cougars guards Galdeira and Dawnyelle Awa, who both starred at Konawaena High.