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WSU falls in overtime to Utah, 67-65


NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars fell just short against the Utah Utes, losing their home conference opener in overtime 67-65.

WSU (3-4, 0-2 in Pac-12) got the last shot in regulation to win it and again in overtime to tie it but couldn’t convert either chance. Utah (7-2, 2-0) knocked home the game winning free throws after a reach-in call with 25 seconds left in overtime.

The Cougars were again without sharpshooter Jabe Mullins and did not have Adrame Diongu. WSU’s leading scorers; T.J. Bamba and Mouhamed Gueye, fouled out late in the second half, leaving WSU without three starters and a key rotation piece for the five minute overtime.

Utah struggled to break through the Cougar defense early as WSU jumped out a 6-0 lead and kept the Utes off the board for the first four minutes. The Utes returned the favor in much more dramatic fashion. Last year’s field goal drought nightmares were revived as WSU failed to knock down a shot for nine straight minutes.

Gueye’s 14 first half points helped bring the Cougs back within three, but a late 5-0 Utah run pushed the Utes halftime lead to eight.

The Cougars again opened a half with a big run and stellar defense. An opening 9-0 run from WSU helped the Cougars retake the lead. The Utes didn’t hit a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half.

If the second half had a theme music, it would just be the sound of a referee’s whistle. 31 fouls were called between the two teams compared to just nine in the first half. 17 of those were called in the front half of the second half.

The Cougars clung to a narrow lead for a majority of the second half as the teams tried their best to avoid their key players getting into foul trouble. Things began to get dicey for the Cougars as Gueye fouled out with 4:35 remaining and the Cougs leading by just four.

With Gueye out, the Cougars rallied around the Frenchmen. Mael Hamon-Crespin created some huge defensive stops in the post and his fellow countryman, Kymany Houinsou, converted a clutch and-one to push the lead up to six and give Utah’s Ben Carlson his fifth foul of the second half.

The Utes brought the game back within two with under two minutes to go. With 15 seconds to go and a chance to go up four, Justin Powell went to the free throw line. Powell got the first to go, but couldn’t convert the all important second shot. With the shot clock turned off, Utah’s Marco Anthony drove into the paint, drew just enough contact from Bamba for the foul and got the shot to go for the game tying and-one. Even worse for WSU, it was Bamba’s fifth and final foul. Dylan Darling tried to give WSU the win in the final seconds, but his coast-to-coast layup attempt through a trio of Utah bodies and contact didn’t go and we head to overtime.

The Cougars were going to have to fight through some major adversity in overtime without having Gueye or Bamba. Overtime began just how the second half ended, a Utah and-one, this time from Rollie Worester. Gabe Madsen pushed the lead to six with an open three-pointer as the Cougar offense flailed without their two leading scorers. Powell, who struggled to find a rhythm all game, buried a huge three-pointer to pull the Cougs back within three. With 30 seconds to go, still trailing by three, D.J. Rodman got his shot to tie after pump faking his way into an open look from three. His game-tying attempt may have missed, but a late closeout by Utah led to a foul and three free throws for Rodman, who knocked down all of them to tie the game at 65. Worester brought the ball up the court for the Utes on the ensuing possession. Defended closely by Houinsou, the refs called him for a devastating reach-in foul before Worester even made it beyond half-court. Worester gave the Utes the lead with his two free throws.

With one last chance to win or push the game to a second overtime, Houinsou drove to the bucket with two seconds to go and his lay-up attempt fell short. Rodman collected to the loose rebound and put it back up but his shot missed and the buzzer sounded as the Utes celebrated their overtime victory.

An absolute gut-punch loss for the Cougars who just couldn’t close the game out in an ugly, foul-ridden basketball game. 42 total fouls were called in the game, 23 on Utah and 19 on WSU.

After a brief two conference games, the Cougars will play out the rest of their non-conference schedule, starting with the Northern Kentucky Norse on Wednesday night.