The Washington State Cougars concluded their Diamond Head Classic trip with a blowout loss to the Utah State Aggies, 82-71. The loss gives WSU fourth place in the tournament.
Utah State (11-2) overfilled WSU’s (5-8) stocking with a barrage of three-pointers, hitting of 11 them on 17 attempts. The Aggies used a 12-0 run halfway through the second period to take a 22 point lead and put the game out of reach.
Utah State is one of the best distance shooting teams in the nation and proved it all game long. WSU opened with an early 9-6 lead before the Aggies three pointers began to fall in droves. USU took their first lead of the game on a 13-2 run — nine points from three pointers — midway through the first.
The Aggies ability to constantly knock down tough shots mixed with some lazy closeouts from WSU helped Utah State start the game 7/11 from downtown in the first half. T.J. Bamba’s ability to get to the charity stripe often in the first half kept the Cougs within reach. Bamba hit eight of his ten first half free throw shots, accounting for nearly a third of WSU’s first half points. The Aggies hot shooting allowed Utah State to expand the lead up to 13 at the halftime break.
For every bucket the Cougs got to open the second half, Utah State had an even bigger answer. WSU pulled the game within nine, but the Aggies would answer back with a 6-0 run. The Cougs got another opportunity to make a run when Aggies guard Max Shulga got ejected for arguing a foul call on Justin Powell. The ejection gave Powell a draw four card of free throws and the ball. D.J. Rodman added a free throw of his own go bring the game within 10.
But once again, every punch WSU landed, the Aggies punched back harder. Utah State broke the game wide open with a 15-2 run, scoring 12 in a row, to give the Aggies a game high 23-point lead. During the Aggies run, Justin Powell was ejected for a foul call that was upgraded to a flagrant two upon review. An Aggie tried to blow by Powell on a drive to the basket and Powell grabbed the Aggie a little too high for the refs liking. WSU closed the game on a higher note, outscoring USU 20-6 in the final eight and a half minutes, but it was all too little and all too late.
The Diamond Head Classic puts a bow on the non-conference slate for WSU. The Cougs will now turn their attention to Pac-12 play with the #13 UCLA Bruins traveling to Pullman on Friday.