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WSU fails to sweep men’s basketball Apple Cup, loses 78-70

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On to Oregon State.

PULLMAN, WA - FEBRUARY 23: Washington State Cougars Men’s Basketball versus the University of Washington Huskies at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State forward DJ Rodman (11) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

The Washington State Cougars failed to complete the sweep of the Apple Cup on Saturday against the Washington Huskies, losing 78-70.

Despite a 30-point game from Michael Flowers and a six-point halftime advantage, WSU (15-13, 8-9 in Pac-12) gave up 50 points in the second half and spent most of the final 20 minutes playing catch up. UW (14-13, 9-8) shot 64 percent from the field in the second half.

The loss drops WSU to eighth in Pac-12 standings with just three games remaining.

In the first meeting, just three days prior, Mouhammed Gueye dominated the Huskies’ zone defense, getting a plethora of open looks just shy of the free-throw line.

“They changed their zone at the beginning where they were dropping down and weren’t playing the forwards as high.” Kyle Smith said after the loss on Saturday.

With the Huskies’ emphasis on collapsing and defending that short jumper, it was Flowers powering the Cougar offense early on. The senior guard made his first five three-point attempts, helping WSU jump out to a seven-point lead. The rest of the Cougar offense couldn’t get much to fall, shooting just 6-of-27. Flowers finished the first half with 20 points and WSU led by six at halftime.

The Huskies controlled the second half from the get-go. They made eight of their first 12 shots, going on an opening 16-to-4 run to erase WSU’s six-point lead and take a six-point lead of their own. WSU pulled back within two but still didn’t have the offense to keep up with UW’s hot shooting and ability to get to the free throw line. UW seemed to have the game under wraps with a nine-point cushion with 2:39 to go. Noah Williams drilled a three-pointer followed by treys from Flowers and Tyrell Roberts to spark an 11-to-5 run to pull WSU within three within three with 1:12 to play.

WSU trapped Jamal Bey on a UW inbound but TJ Bamba was whistled for a foul on the trap. Bey knocked home both free throws. Bamba got two of his own free throws to fall on the other end to keep the game within three. The Cougars full-court trapped again on the ensuing possession, but left Emmitt Matthews Jr. wide open on the other end of the court for an easy dunk to all but ice the game away. UW knocked home three more free throws in the remaining seconds to hand the Cougars a 78-70 loss.

The Cougars were plagued again by the lack of a go-to scorer when they needed to snap a drought in the second half. Flowers couldn’t quite carry over his first-half success, shooting just 3-of-10 in the second half and the soft spot in the UW zone defense was cleaned up enough to prevent Gueye from getting the easy looks he saw a few days ago. Terrell Brown Jr., who scored just 11 in the game on Wednesday, scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half.

“We guarded him as well as anybody for three halves and he’s a good player. He’s gonna have that and you gotta be ready for it. We didn’t weather his effort and it was really good.” Smith said.

WSU will now turn its attention to the final week of the regular season with three games remaining. The Cougars will travel to Corvallis to play the first of a back-to-back against the Oregon State Beavers on Monday night at 8 p.m. PT.