College report: Molina’s big day helps Cougars hold off Arizona

  • Washington State guard Chanelle Molina. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

PULLMAN, Wash. — Unlike her highly decorated high school career at Konawaena, there were no Wildcat fans cheering for Chanelle Molina on Saturday.

Well, at least none of the Wildcat faithful wearing Arizona colors.

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Molina matched a season-high with 28 points and blocked a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to help Washington State end a seven-game losing streak with a 90-88 win over Arizona on Saturday.

Borislava Hristova helped carry the offensive load with Molina against the Wildcats, netting a game-high 37 points in the big win for the Cougars.

“It was amazing,” Molina said in a post game press conference. “We executed our plays and got everyone involved. It’s hard to guard one or two people when everyone is scoring. The movement today was fantastic.”

Molina was 11 of 16 with four 3-pointers and nine assists, enough to move her into the top 10 for a single season with 126. As a team, the Cougars shot 57 percent, going 8 of 18 from 3-point range. Hristova made 14 of 19 shots and grabbed six rebounds.

The 65 combined points by the Cougars’ two stars Molina and Hristova were more than Washington State had scored as a team on 14 occasions this season.

“It says a lot about those two,” Washington State head coach Kamie Ethridge said. “They are hungry, intense competitors. They study the game and want to be great at it.”

Molina is a huge part of the Cougars game plan, averaging a team high 38 minutes. She routinely turns in packed stat lines, averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game. The former BIIF player of the year is also shooting a scorching 42 percent from 3-point range.

Molina came out on fire, scoring the Cougars’ first eight points of the game and netting 12 in the opening stanza. It was the final four of those 12 that kick started a 9-0 closing run for the Cougars to capture a three-point lead after the first 10 minutes of action.

It was a stark contrast to a game earlier in the week where Molina shot just 4 of 13, netting 8 points in a lopsided 61-46 loss to Arizona State.

“Every game I try to focus on what I can do better and try to get better for that next game. You have to have that short-term memory,” Molina said of shaking off the disappointing outing. “I want to have a complete game and be able to get myself shots and get my teammates shots.”

After falling behind by six midway through the second quarter, Molina again spurred the Cougars’ answer as she scored five of a quick seven for Washington State to recapture the lead.

From there, Hristova led a free flowing attack that saw Washington State again close the frame strong with a 16-6 spurt to nab a 42-38 lead at the break. The 10 from Hristova in the second quarter was only a warmup as she netted 12 of the Cougars’ 23 in the third and 13 of 25 in the fourth.

Molina opened the fourth quarter with a layup and Hristova followed with a fast break bucket and the Cougars (8-16, 3-10 Pac-12 Conference) had the big lead of the game at 69-58. The Wildcats (15-8, 5-7) answered with a 10-2 run and the game remained tight to the end.

Arizona’s Aari McDonald scored nine of her 26 points in the final two minutes but Molina got a hand on her shot at the end to give the Cougars the win.

“We emphasized intensity on defense this week,” Molina said. “When we execute, it gives us a chance to win games.”

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Chanelle’s sisters Celena and Cherilyn are also on the Cougars roster, but neither saw significant time on the court against Arizona.

The Cougars have some time off before renewing their Apple Cup rivalry series with Washington on Friday in Pullman. Washington State took the opening game of the series in December, defeating the Huskies 79-76 in Seattle.