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Washington State women open Pac-12 Tournament with Colorado team they just defeated

March 2, 2017 GMT

This may be the most overachieving seventh-place team June Daugherty has coached.

Playing since midseason without their top three scorers, the Washington State women nevertheless managed to finish in the middle of the Pac-12 Conference.

“This is the proudest I’ve ever been I’ve even been of a team” said Daugherty, who’s coached more than 800 games and is in her 10th season with the Cougars.

“For our team to hang in there and develop and get better, to end up in seventh place is phenomenal,” Daugherty said.

The Cougars (11-18 overall, 6-12 Pac-12) are coming off a 67-56 Senior Day win over Colorado, the same team they’ll face Thursday in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. at Key Arena in Seattle.

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The winner will play second-seeded Stanford in a quarterfinal game on Friday. That half of the bracket also holds third-seeded Washington.

Facing the same team in a four-day span makes the rematch “a little easier,” said Daugherty, who added that she felt a lot of energy in practice.

“We’re evolving, and a lot of kids have stepped up and improved,” Daugherty said.

They’ve had no choice in the wake of season-ending injuries to Borislava Hristova, Chanelle Molina and Louise Brown, who averaged a combined 37.9 points this year.

The Cougars got a big game on Sunday from redshirt sophomore Nike McClure, who tied the Pac-12 record with 12 blocked shots against Colorado. McCluire just missed posting the Cougs’ first triple-double as she had 12 rebounds but only six points while taking just four shots.

In that same game, Alexys Swedlund scored 20 points to raise her season average to 10.7.

“It’s a credit to these kids,” Daugherty said. “Life is tough sometimes, and it throws you curveballs. It is what it is.”

The Buffaloes (15-14) won the first matchup 70-58 in Boulder, Colorado, on Feb. 3.