WSU vs. Utah basketball final score: Cougs grab first Pac-12 win, 49-46

William Mancebo

It wasn't pretty, but the Cougars were the team that played best down the stretch in a close game for a change.

Uteguard Brandon Taylor's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer fell well short of the basket and the Washington State Cougars earned their first Pac-12 win of the season, 49-46, on Sunday. Taylor's shot came after an intentional miss from Delon Wright was tipped to the corner.

The Utes held the ball with a chance to win the game, down 47-46 on its previous possession, but a travel call turned the ball over to Washington State with 7.7 seconds left. Que Johnson then hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to three, wrapping up his 14-point day where he knocked down 10 of 13 from the line.

WSU struggled on offense again in the first half, hitting just 7 of 23 from the field. That allowed Utah to build a 12-point lead thanks in large part to a pair of threes from Jordan Loveridge. But the Cougs would chip away with the help of excellent half-court defense to get within five points at 24-19 by halftime.

Johnson was the key to closing the gap, as he scored a team-high seven points on 2 of 4 shooting in the first 20 minutes. The freshman was saddled with foul trouble and sat out a long stretch of the half, but entered again later after it was determined that he was incorrectly assigned one of Ike Iroegbu's fouls.

Kernich-Drew led the charge in the second half, scoring on two drives to the basket and two quick jumpers off of screens. It was as aggressive as Kernich-Drew has been at WSU, and it worked well. He finished with 11 points on 5 of 6 from the floor. It was a second-straight excellent shooting performance from the Aussie after he hit 6 of 8 3-pointers against Colorado.

The game became a battle of free throws late, even to the point of Utah intentionally fouling Junior Longrus in the final two minutes. It worked, as Longrus missed both free throws. The Utes would then close within one two possessions later on a steal and breakaway layup.

On the ensuing possession, Johnson got in the lane but turned the ball over on a highly questionable charge call. The replay showed that Johnson was in the air before the defender came set, which would be a charge under new NCAA rules. Thankfully for Johnson, he was able to redeem himself with the clinching free throws.

WSU improves to 8-8 on the season and 1-3 in conference play, while dropping the Utes to the same league record. The Cougars hit the road to face the Bay Area schools next week.

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