Cooks Gives WSU Game-Winning Three-Point Play at Arizona as Coug - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Cooks Gives WSU Game-Winning Three-Point Play at Arizona as Cougars Snap Losing Streak

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Mariah Cooks buried a free throw with 3.4 seconds left to give WSU the win. Mariah Cooks buried a free throw with 3.4 seconds left to give WSU the win.

by WSU Athletics

TUCSON, Ariz. – Mariah Cooks buried a free throw with 3.4 seconds left against the University of Arizona, Sunday, giving the Washington State Cougars (13-14, 4-12 Pac-12) a 62-61 victory over the Wildcats (11-7, 2-14). Trailing by two with five seconds left in regulation, the Santa Maria, Calif., senior slid to her right and rebounded a missed free throw from teammate Nike McClure, slammed the ball once onto the hardwood, and laid in a left-handed hook shot with four University of Arizona players around her. As the game-tying field goal fell to the bottom of the net, a whistle sounded as Cooks was fouled by Wildcat player LaBrittney Jones. Cooks stepped to the line and sunk the game-winning free throw to give WSU its first victory since Jan. 15.

“I knew what I had to do, and I wasn’t going to let anyone get in my way,” Cooks said. “I just made sure I got the ball. I wasn’t even expecting to make it. I was just trying to get fouled. It’s awesome to be able to score and get the foul. Obviously, there was a lot of excitement after the shot, so I had to walk away from the line and calm my nerves. Then I stepped up to the free throw line like I’ve done thousands of times in my career. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but it feels really great.”

The Cougars jumped out to an early lead in the contest, closing the first quarter up 17-14. WSU led by as many as eight points in the opening half, and entered the locker room leading 36-29. Freshman Borislava Hristova scored 13 of her game-best 16 points in the opening 20 minutes of play. Hristova finished 5-of-12 from the field, breaking a WSU freshman record for total field goals in a season. The Bulgarian native has made 178 shots in her young career, besting the previous all-time freshman record set by Lia Galdeira in 2012-13.

In the second half the Wildcats came storming back to tie the game, 50-50, at the end of the third quarter. Arizona went on to take its first lead of the game, building the lead to six points with 6:10 left in regulation. The Cougars would rally back, forcing the Wildcats into four-straight turnovers to tie the game with 3:13 to play. Arizona responded with a 5-0 run and maintained a two-possession lead with 72 seconds left. WSU sophomore Caila Hailey made 1-of-2 free throws and Cooks followed with 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Cougars within two points before Cooks provided WSU with her game-winning three-point play.

“I’m just really proud of this team,” WSU Head Coach June Daugherty said. “We’ve been in so many last-possession games and not been able to bring it home. Each game the team has learned from it. We always talk about how luck isn’t ever on your side. You have to make your own luck, and Mariah Cooks made our luck tonight. It’s great to see our senior take care of business like that.”

WSU freshman Maria Kostourkova led the Cougars in rebounding with five boards. As a team, the Cougars were outrebounded 43-33. Defensively, WSU forced the Wildcats into 24 turnovers with sophomore Pinelopi Pavlopoulou grabbing a career-high five steals. Sophomore Louise Brown led WSU with a career-high five assists, all of which came in the first half.

The Cougars will return to Pullman for their final series of the regular season. WSU welcomes Colorado, Friday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. Washington State will honor its four seniors Sunday, Feb. 27, at 11 a.m. against Utah.

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