The #11 UCLA Bruins narrowly survived an upset scare from the Washington State Cougars, taking the lead with 19 seconds to go for a 67-66 victory.
WSU (5-9, 0-3 in Pac-12) held the lead for over 35 minutes, until a late UCLA takeaway with 19 seconds to go led to fast break bucket to take the one point lead. The Cougars had the last possession and D.J. Rodman — who had been hot all night — had a look from the corner that rattled out and the Bruins gobbled the loose rebound as the clock hit midnight on the Cougars upset chance.
The game couldn’t have started any better for the Cougars and Mouhammed Gueye. After trailing 5-0, the Cougars began to open things up with a 12-2 run led by five points from Gueye, including a three pointer to put the Cougs on the board. Gueye continued his charge on the Bruins with another four points to score nine of the Cougars first 16. Jabe Mullins helped extend the lead up to 10 past the halfway mark in the first half with a his own 5-0 run. The Cougars tenacious defense was also up to the task of stopping the high powered Bruin offense. UCLA shot just 8/30 in the first half, but capitalized at the charity stripe going 13/14 in their bountiful opportunities. Those 13 points from the stripe kept the Bruins in the game at the half as WSU took a surprising 37-32 lead into the half. Gueye looked dominant with a double-double before the second half began.
UCLA made their halftime adjustments and opened the half with a 7-2 run to tie things up at 39, the first time WSU didn’t have the lead since the 17:32. D.J. Rodman burst onto the scene scoring 10 of WSU’s next 14 and doing it from in every way possible. Layups, and-ones, free throws and a crisp step-back three from the corner helped WSU open up the lead to eight. WSU matched UCLA’s shots with counters of their own, even when the Bruins pulled within three, Rodman and Powell pushed the lead up to nine with 7:23 to go on back-to-back treys as the Beasley crowd roared even without its students.
Jaime Jaquez slowly chipped into the Cougar lead with a personal 6-0 run over a three minute span to pull back within three. The Cougars continued to struggle from to knock down shots from the field as UCLA continued to threaten down the home stretch. Gueye’s free throws provided a cushion between UCLA runs as the lead closed down to three with a minute to play.
Jacquez hit his ninth and 10th free throws to bring the game within one with 50 seconds to go. Coming out of a timeout, WSU looked to run a play that would bleed clock and give the Cougars a three or four point lead. With the clock at 23, Kymany Houinsou tried to feed a pass inside that was deflected and stolen by Tyger Campbell. Campbell pushed the ball up to Adam Bona who got the go-ahead layup on a goaltending call on a desperation block attempt by Gueye.
Down one with 19 seconds to go, WSU got one last shot for the win. After some good defense from UCLA and nearly a pass thrown out of bounds, the ball landed in Rodman’s hands in the corner. Rodman rose and fired but his game winner circled in and out and with it, WSU’s chance at a huge upset win over the 11th ranked Bruins.
The Cougars had the game within their grasp, but couldn’t seal the deal. They closed the game on a 7:23 field goal drought. In a season of bad breaks, the ball continues to bounce the other way for WSU.
WSU will turn around and play New Year’s Day back in Pullman at noon against the USC Trojans.