WSU women looking to improve on 8th place finish in Pac-12

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - A veteran basketball team with most of its best players back, Washington State's women's squad is looking to improve on its eighth-place finish in the Pac-12 last year.

Center Carly Noyes, now playing in Europe, is the main loss from a team that finished 11-20 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-12.

Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira, both honorable mention All-Pac-12 players, are back. Galdeira led the team in scoring at 14 points per game last season. Presley was second at 13 until a torn ACL sidelined her for the final 13 games.

"Our improvement has been much better than I expected," coach June Daugherty said.

Presley looks to be completely recovered from her injury, Daugherty said.

"She came back two months early," Daugherty said of Presley, who will play shooting guard. "She looks great."

Other top returnees include Sage Romberg, Brandi Thomas, 6-foot-4 Shalie Dheensaw and Dawnyelle Awa.

"Shalie might be the most improved on our team," Daugherty said. "She in an inside presence offensively and defensively."

Daugherty noted her team remains young, with just three seniors. They played six freshmen last season.

Five things to know about the Washington State women's basketball team:

SCHEDULE: The Cougars open by hosting Syracuse, and also have non-conference games against Mississippi, West Virginia, Fresno State, BYU, Gonzaga and Nebraska, among others this year.

PAC-12 TOURNAMENT: WSU has reached the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament each of the past two seasons, but has never had a winning season in six years under Daugherty. However, they upset No. 20 Ohio State last season for their first win over a ranked opponent since 2001.

HIGH SCORING: Galdeira was the top-scoring freshman in the Pac-12 last season and the second-highest in the nation. Galdeira, from Kamuela, Hawaii, set a WSU freshman record with 459 points and 28 games scoring in double figures. She also led the Pac-12 with 2.8 steals per game, and tried out for the U.S. national team.

PASSPORTS PLEASE: The Cougars took a 10-day trip to Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in August. They played four games during the trip, winning all four.

DEFENSE: The WSU defense was third in the league with 9.5 steals per game last season. They forced at least 20 turnovers in a game 11 times and held opponents to less than 60 points 10 times.