Stout defense the backbone of WSU women’s basketball’s run to the WNIT Final Four

Amidst all the season-ending injuries and the changes in offensive systems they triggered, the one reliable constant for the Cougars this season has been Rod Jensen’s aggressive defense

After former Washington State men’s basketball coach Ken Bone was fired in March 2014, his assistant, Rod Jensen was packing up his moving truck to leave Pullman when WSU women’s basketball coach June Daugherty stopped by.

Jensen and Daugherty share a relationship that dates back to the late eighties, when Daugherty got her first head coaching opportunity at Boise State and Jensen – then the Broncos’ men’s basketball coach – was on the committee that interviewed and hired her.

They stayed touch through the years, chatting basketball and exchanging ideas every chance they got. Daugherty says she’s always admired Jensen’s vaunted defensive system from afar. So when she caught Jensen and his wife, Brenda, on their way out of town in 2014, she propositioned him: “I’d really love to have your defense in our program,” Daugherty told Jensen.

Even though Jensen had never coached women in his three decades in the business, he was excited by the prospect of finally getting to work with an old friend: “Coach, I’d love to stay here if we can work it out,” he told her.

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It took another year before Daugherty had an opening on her staff, but since Jensen moved back to Pullman to rejoin the Cougars women as defensive coordinator in July 2015, his aggressive man-to-man style of defense has become the reliable staple in two seasons marred by roster turnover, a steep learning curve and freak injuries.

Daugherty credits the Cougars’ defense for keeping them in games this year in between the personnel losses they endured when three starters suffered season-ending injuries, and on Wednesday, WSU (16-19) will ride its stout defense into Atlanta, Ga. for its WNIT Final Four…

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