Don't let the score of this one fool you: the Washington State Cougars were in pretty firm control of this game throughout until the Arizona Wildcats made a desperation-fueled rally to close the gap and salvage a respectable result of 81-70.
The Cougars got up by as much as 20 points with under 7 minutes left in the second half, at which point Pac-12 Network commentators Cindy Brunson and Kyndra de St. Aubin were wondering whether coach June Daugherty should just pull the starters. Ultimately, the Wildcats just found themselves completely unable to contain Washington State's dynamic backcourt duo of Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley.
"We knew the two players that were going to take the shots," Arizona coach Niya Butts said after the game, according to ArizonaWildcats.com. "We were supposed to be focusing on those young ladies, and they were still able to make plays, in part because they are very talented, but also because we didn't do what we needed to defensively. We have to address that and be ready to go."
The Cougars starting backcourt combined for 51 points in the win with Presley edging out Galdeira with a game-high 26 points. It was an impressive display from both, but Presley was particularly impressive as a scorer with her combination of scoring efficiency and versatility.
If you take out the final 6:20 of the game during which Presley shot just 1-for-4 as Arizona made their run in part by imposing an aggressive full court press, Presley shot 10-for-16 in the first 33 minutes (and six seconds) of the game -- it was Presley who hit the jumper with 6:54 left to put the Cougars up by 20 points.
Although Presley is a noticeably right-hand dominant player, her ability to score off the catch, pull-up jumpers, and driving to the basket made her extremely difficult to stop. And rather than just settling for mid-range jumpers once, Presley is adept at using a lightning quick first step to get into the paint and either score on floaters, pull-ups or free throws.
Yet the most impressive play was hardly the prettiest: at about the 1:08 mark in the video above, you'll see Presley miss one a shot from within five feet and compete with three Arizona players to eventually grab one of her game-high tying three offensive rebounds and get the outback. Presley's sheer will to score sets her apart from most of her peers and makes watching Washington State's backcourt tandem even more entertaining to watch.
As of right now, the combination of Presley's efficiency working inside the 3-point arc (51%), from beyond the 3-point line (40.6%), and an impressive 38% free throw rate (FTA/FGA) not only makes her a lethal scorer alongside Galdeira but also squarely within the range of deserving more attention as a WNBA draft prospect. In what everyone assumes to be a weak year, Presley might end up being the most efficient major conference guard available, but even in a normal year numbers like that for a top-50 RPI team would at least put her in the conversation.
For more on Washington State Cougars women's basketball, check out the section over at SB Nation's CougCenter.