Seniors Carly Noyes and Katie Grad will be making their final appearances at Beasley Coliseum, and Lia Galdeira is set to become the leading freshman scorer in school history.
Galdeira currently ranks fourth among frosh with 400 points, and record-holder Jazmine Perkins (2008-09) is just 13 ahead. Galdeira’s 14.8 average tops the 14.4 record held by Kristal Stahl (1988-89).
WSU coach June Daugherty said “it’s a little bit of a no-brainer” that Galdeira should be named Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12. She leads the league with 2.9 steals per game; she leads Pac-12 freshmen in scoring (seventh overall); and she leads the Cougars in steals, scoring, rebounds (5.1) and free-throw shooting percentage (.788, fifth in the Pac-12).
“Athletically, she’s as good as anybody out there … she does a lot of amazing things,” Daugherty said. “She can do it all. She can really truly do it all.
“She’s a young player that I think has welcomed the competition. She has not dropped down -- ever -- against any of the competition we’ve played this year. She really, truly wants to put the team on her back and lead them.”
Galdeira, a 5-foot-11 guard from Kamuela, Hawaii, shoots just 35.2 percent from the field, but there’s a good reason why she has taken more than twice as many shots (352) as any other Cougar. Since point guard Tia Presley (13.3 ppg) went down with a season-ending knee injury 10 games ago, WSU’s second-leading scorer among active players is Sage Romberg with a mere 6.3 ppg.
Daugherty said WSU’s six freshmen are “as good as advertised” and a key part of a “very bright future” for the Cougars.
“The great news with these kids, they’re so competitive and they’re so confident in themselves, they love that responsibility,” Daugherty said. “Obviously, they’re doing a really nice job for us.”
Daugherty said that applies off the court as well.
“They’re so much fun,” she said. “They work so hard. They’re so into basketball.
“They’re also such a great, cohesive group that it’s really fun to be around them on and off the court. I don’t know if a lot of coaches could say that at this point in the season.
“It’s fun to be in the airports. It’s fun to be at Benihana’s or wherever else we’re eating dinner on the road with them. They bring a lot of energy. They really appreciate the opportunity they’re getting as players.”
The seventh-place Cougars (10-17 overall, 6-10 Pac-12) are huge underdogs against the co-leaders from California and Stanford. Both teams are 26-2 overall and 15-1 in league. The Bears have won 13 of the past 15 meetings with WSU, and Stanford is a perfect 53-0 against the Cougars.
“No matter who you play, you’ve got to be your best on that day,” Daugherty said.
“I don’t care if they come in undefeated. I don’t care if they come in tied for first place. We’re looking at that this weekend. They don’t matter.
“What matters is that Washington State plays its best on that day. If we do that, anything can happen.”
After Thursday’s 6 p.m. game with Cal and Saturday’s noon (Pac-12 Networks) showdown with Stanford, the Cougars will play Wednesday in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle.
Daugherty says the traditionally tough Pac-12 is particularly strong this year, with four teams are ranked in the Top 25. The WNBA’s Seattle Storm has helped promote the tournament, which runs next Wednesday through Saturday.
“The best news I’ve heard in years is that the Pac-12 tournament is coming to Seattle and coming to KeyArena,” Daugherty said. “The reason is that the Seattle Storm – (team president) Karen Bryant and company -- have taken that on.
“You talk about the best WNBA franchise in the country, it’s clearly the Seattle Storm. With Karen’s great vision and guidance, it’ll be an opportunity that we’ve never seen in this conference as far as a post-season conference tournament.
“I guarantee you from the time that the players touch down in Seattle, for all 12 teams, they are going to really feel like there’s something very special going on. Everything will be done first class.”
The Cougars rank 10th in Pac-12 attendance with just 1,063 fans per home game, so Daugherty is looking forward to seeing some big crowds in Seattle. Lower center-court seating on both sides is sold out.
“They’ve done a great job marketing and promoting it to the Pac-12 enterprises, as well as locally in the Northwest, and we expect to see some great crowds,” Daugherty said. “Seattle has such a great following for women’s basketball and a great enthusiasm for the sport.
“I know they’ve sold a lot of tickets already. It’s the place to be, there’s no doubt about it. We’re excited to get there and play in front of our Cougars fans.”