Entering tonight’s contest, WSU (9-2) was shooting 66% from the free throw line. Clinging to a one-point lead with three minutes to play, the Cougs hit all seven of their free throw attempts down the stretch to put the game away. A big win against a BSU (8-4) team that has been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and currently sits as a quad 2 win for WSU.
The game was a battle from tip-off till the final horn. WSU jumped out to an eight point lead — the largest of the game — in the first half off a 14-3 run. The Broncos responded with a 6-0 run and held the Cougs off the scoreboard for three and a half minutes to bring the game back within a possession. Isaac Jones led the charge in the final minutes, scoring six of the Cougars last eight first-half points to help put WSU up six at half.
BSU’s halftime adjustments proved to work early with an 8-0 run to retake the lead. For the next 17 minutes, no team could grab a lead bigger than four till the final seconds. Each Bronco shot was answered by a Coug shot and vice versa. Finally, the Broncos threw the first haymaker. A 6-0 run with under six minutes to go gave the Broncos the first two possession lead since they trailed to start the half. Kymany Houinsou ended the BSU run with a bucket inside. Jabe Mullins grabbed a defensive rebound on the next possession, taking it coast-to-coast, drawing a foul and knocking home both free throws to tie the game at 54.
After a pair of BSU free throws to retake the lead, Mullins again stole it right back like the Grinch on Christmas with a bigtime trey on a fastbreak.
Jabe in transition! A deflection and steal leads to a big Coug basket.— Washington State Men's Basketball (@WSUCougarsMBB) December 22, 2023
Something about Spokane Arena gives this Washington kid a hot hand...he's got a season-high 13 points.#GoCougs // #CVE // @Pac12Network pic.twitter.com/B7x3Az0UlD
With the lead still at one with under two minutes to play, Myles Rice knew exactly what he needed to do. Rice dished it down to Jones who soared up above his defender, drawing contact and hitting the floater for the and-one. Not only was this a big bucket to put WSU up four, but the BSU defender was their leading scorer in the game O’mar Stanley who fouled out with that Jones and-one.
The Broncos wouldn’t go away so easily. Chibuzo Agbo drilled a big three to pull the game within one and after a brutal WSU turnover, BSU got their chance to retake the lead with 50 seconds to go. Roddie Anderson III got a great look at the rim after beating his defender, but couldn’t get the layup in traffic to fall. With the shot clock turned off, the Broncos fouled Houinsou, sending the 63% free throw shooter on the season to the stripe. Houinsou calmly drained both to give WSU the three-point edge. Max Rice’s game-tying three attempt wouldn’t fall and Jones hit his two free throws to seal a huge win for the Cougs.
In previous years, this was a game that likely would have slipped away. The late turnovers and inability to get those crucial free throw points have plagued WSU teams before, but this time, WSU got the stops they needed, wouldn’t let the careless turnovers haunt them and hit every single one of their crunch time free throws. It speaks volumes to the growth of this team and hopefully a glimpse at a team that is ready to take that next step that the others just couldn’t quite make.
WSU will enjoy their holidays with non-conference play over and return for their first conference road trip of the season, beginning with the Utah Utes on December 29th.