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LAS VEGAS -- The Washington Cougars won the 2023 Pac-12 women's basketball tournament with a 65-61 victory over UCLA on Sunday. The victory was big for the Cougars, but also big for the conference. 

It was a tough battle with five ties and 13 lead changes, but the Cougars toughed it out to make history. This marked the first conference championship for Washington State basketball, men's or women's. It was also the school's first Pac-12 championship in any women's sport.

"I don't really know what to say, but it sounds sweet, that title for us. I would have never thought we could do it," Washington State coach Kamie Ethridge said after the game. "I don't even think when I took the job I thought this was possible in this kind of league and these kind of coaches and the athletes that were going up against and players. So it just is a testament to anything's possible. ... If you get the right people in place that believe and work and are committed to each other you can accomplish amazing things together."

Winning four games -- because of not getting a bye -- is not an easy thing to achieve in the Pac-12. Washington State is only the second team to win a title after playing four games, with the first and only team before Sunday being USC in 2014.

Their victory against UCLA was possible thanks to strong performances by Charisse Ledger-Walker and Bella Murekatete, who registered 23 and 21 points, respectively. Murekatete made the All-Tournament team, while Leger-Walker was named Most Outstanding Player.

The Cougars -- who are now 23-10 overall and heading to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament -- proved they are not a team to be overlooked earlier this week when they upset the No. 2-seeded Utah in the quarterfinals. That was Washington State's biggest win in program history.

This year's championship game saw two unexpected teams battle it out on Sunday, as this was the first time in history a top-four seed didn't play in the title game. No. 5 seed UCLA earned a ticket after upsetting No. 1 seed Stanford on Friday. Meanwhile, Washington State was the No. 7 seed -- making it the lowest-seeded team to ever appear in the title game. But the title game wasn't the only one that showed the Pac-12's strength: Seven of the eleven games in this year's tournament were upsets. 

"I think that's it. I mean, we've said it all year long and everybody has, every coach has said that, it's just been a gauntlet of who you play," Ethridge said. "I remember we had like eight games left and we were teetering on is there any way we can get in, and I don't know what we're going to do. But if we go 6-2, we'll get in. And it's just like, that's at USC, at -- you start naming all the places you're going and you're like, yeah, no one's going 6-2 in that gauntlet."

UCLA coach Cori Close felt the same way.

"That's probably the biggest story in the tournament. Everybody talks about how deep their conference is and how good their conference is," Close said. "Numerically, when you add the non-conference schedule in terms of our winning percentage, that bore out. We talk about net ratings, that bore out. But then you prove it again in the way that this tournament played out."

Pac-12 Tournament Awards

Most Outstanding Player: Charisse Leger-Walker, Washington State

All-Tournament Team

  • Emily Besoin, UCLA
  • Cameron Brink, Stanford
  • Bella Murekatete, Washington State
  • Charisma Osborne, UCLA
  • Kiki Rice, UCLA