Lets go, girls! Washington States tourney run finds a fan in Shania Twain

  • Covers women’s college basketball and the WNBA
  • Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun for the Hartford Courant
  • Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with further experience at the Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times and Cincinnati Enquirer

The Washington State Cougars women’s basketball has had a historic week, bringing home the program’s first Pac-12 tournament championship as well as the first Pac-12 title for any women’s sports team in school history.

The cherry on top to their incredible stretch? Newfound support from their season-long inspiration, Canadian singer Shania Twain.

Twain’s 1997 hit song, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” has served as the Cougars’ unofficial anthem all season, and following their championship run and ascent to national fame over the past weekend, their passion for the song has taken on a life of its own, even capturing the attention of Twain herself.

Cougars sports information director Chris Caskey told ESPN that the team’s favorite activity off the court is karaoke, where Twain’s pop masterpiece is fifth-year senior Ula Motuga’s favorite selection. She even used it as her entrance music during the program’s Midnight Madness in the fall.

During the season, the team as a whole began to embrace the song, playing it in the locker room before games and as the go-to after a big win. It got to the point where Motuga would come into the pregame locker room and say “let’s go, girls!” — the famous opening lyrics — after which the group would sing the first verse and chorus to let off steam before tip.

So when 7-seed Washington State upset 2-seed Utah (which at the time was projected as a 1-seed for the NCAA tournament) in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, Caskey said he asked the arena DJ in Las Vegas’ Michelob Ultra Arena to play Twain’s song, and though he initially wasn’t sure whether he had the track, he came through.

Amid their raucous celebration, the players belted and danced to the song on the Pac-12 Network broadcast, a clip of which later gained traction on social media and the attention of Twain.

“Love this!” Twain tweeted Friday morning. The players were ecstatic when they saw the tweet.

And as the Cougs kept winning, the legend grew.

Upon advancing to the finals with a 61-49 win over 3-seed Colorado, Motuga, on the Pac-12 Network broadcast, invited “Auntie Shania Twain” to come to Vegas for the championship game and perform the song with their coach in the locker room. Twain responded that she’s currently in Switzerland, but that she would be watching from afar.

On Sunday, in the first-ever Pac-12 tournament championship game without any of the top four seeds, the Cougars beat 5-seed UCLA 65-61 for the tournament crown, becoming the lowest seed in the event’s history to achieve such a feat. Twain made sure to give them a shoutout for the remarkable accomplishment.

If all goes to plan for the Cougars, they’ll have a lengthy NCAA tournament run — and then perhaps soon after will meet their idol when she’s on tour next month for her album, “Queen of Me.”

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