The Washington State Cougars fell short of a season sweep of the #6 Arizona Wildcats, losing 63-58 in Pullman.
WSU (9-13, 4-7 in Pac-12) couldn’t get the open shots to fall in the second half after closing the lead down to four before the end of the first half. While the Cougs were able to pull within one, Arizona (18-3, 7-3) pulled away late with a clutch 8-3 run in the final minutes.
The Wildcats came out hungry, looking to avenge their loss in Tucson. After a back-and-forth first two minutes, the Wildcat defense dug their heels in and made life tough for the Cougs. WSU hit just two of their first 10 shots from the field while the Wildcats made a living in the paint and beyond the arc, building a lead up to 12. Andrej Jakimovski helped WSU begin to chip slowly into the Arizona lead with a deep three to end the scoring drought. The Wildcats held the Cougars at bay, never letting WSU break within seven until the 2:40 mark as Justin Powell got the short jumper to fall through the contact for an and-one. Arizona rebuilt the lead back up to eight and seemed to be on their way to taking momentum into the locker room with them. A pair of D.J. Rodman free throws cut the lead back down to six and a travel call on Oumar Ballo gave the Cougs the essential last possession of the half. With the shot clock winding down, Jabe Mullins fired off a deep three that missed. The loose rebound rolled towards the Arizona bench, but Powell came flying in seemingly out of nowhere, gathered the ball and attacked the rim for a layup before the horn to make it just a four point game at the half.
Justin Powell gets it in before the buzzer and the Cougs finish with four-straight.— WSU Men's Basketball (@WSUCougarMBB) January 27, 2023
https://t.co/gDSz2R0UFQ #GoCougs | #WAZZU pic.twitter.com/xjhLE3C3qR
Both teams couldn’t hit the ocean on their shots to open the second half. WSU stirred up open looks, but couldn’t knock them down. The teams combined for just 13 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Finally, a Powell three, followed by a Mouhamed Gueye layup, pulled the Cougs within a point. As WSU’s shooting woes continued, Arizona continued to feast in the paint. The once one-point game began to slowly swell with each Arizona paint bucket, reaching 10 with a Kerr Kriisa three with 5:28 remaining. Kriisa’s three was Arizona first point outside the paint of the half.
With the lead up to 10, T.J. Bamba did his best to will the Cougars back into the game. Bamba knocked home a trey and attacked the basket for a layup on the next possession to bring the game within five. After an Arizona jumper to reel momentum back away from WSU, Kriisa hit the essential dagger with a three ball while drawing a flagrant. Kriisa tried to blow by a defending Bamba and was able to escape with an elbow to the face of Bamba on the backswing of his swim move. The flagrant was called after a review following the shot, meaning Kriisa’s three still counted, but WSU still got two free throws and the ball. Rodman cashed in an open three before the buzzer to cover the spread to make for some happy, or unhappy, folks.
WSU will look to snap the three game skid against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday.