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WSU falls flat in the desert to Santa Clara, despite late rally, 69-61

A better fight in the second half just wasn’t enough to overcome first half woes.

NCAA Basketball: Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Mississippi State at Washington State Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

12:17.

That was the time between Washington State making their fifth and sixth field goals of the game. After taking an early 16-12 lead on the Santa Clara Broncos, the Cougars missed their next 15 field goal attempts in a 23-1 run for the Broncos to fall into an early hole they could never crawl out of. While the Cougars staged a rally late in the game to make things interesting, they couldn’t finish the comeback, losing 69-61.

WSU (8-2) came out firing in the second half with a couple big runs, outscoring SCU (8-4) 38-30 in the second half but ultimately couldn’t escape abysmal their 22.6% first half field goal percentage. Adama Alpha-Bal led the game in scoring with 23.

The teams traded buckets early with WSU gaining the slight edge with a pair of 4-0 runs. What followed was an avalanche of bad basketball from the Cougs that can really only be summarized by one graphic.

In that mess, WSU hit one of three free throw attempts and turned the ball over twice. The drought mercifully came to an end when Kymany Houinsou jumped a pass and took it the distance undefended for the easy dunk. The Cougs tacked on another Houinsou fastbreak bucket and a pair of Andrej Jakimovski free throws before half, but the drought had already plummeted WSU into a 16-point halftime deficit.

With no place to go but up, the Cougs came out looking much better. A Jakimovski and-one helped give the Cougs a spark they had been lacking all game. Isaac Jones followed up with an and-one of his own and a layup on the next possession before Jakimovski put a cap on the 10-0 run to bring the game within six. The good times wouldn’t last much longer. SCU locked back in defensively and one could assume they had a magnet on the rim with every difficult shot they took seemingly finding the bottom of the net. The Broncos found themselves back up by 16 with 4:18 to go before WSU could find an answer in Myles Rice. Rice turned into the human torch with back to back treys and an assist inside to Jones to give the Cougs a pulse, down eight. Rueben Chinyelu knocked home a pair of free throws for WSU’s second 10-0 run of the half. Rice again answered the call with another three ball to bring the deficit to five with 1:50 to go. WSU couldn’t capitalize off of a Bronco turnover on the next possession and would have to chase Bronco free throws the rest of the way. The Broncos hit seven of their eight free throws in the final minute to seal the game.

WSU will return to the Evergreen State, but will head up north to Spokane for a “neutral-site” game against the Broncos of the Boise State variety on Thursday night.