The Washington State Cougars escaped a tightly contested game against the Stanford Cardinal, 67-63.
WSU (14-15, 9-9 in Pac-12) held the lead for most of the second half, but Stanford (11-17, 5-12) rallied back and took the game down into the final minute for the second straight time. T.J. Bamba came through in the clutch with a huge bucket to give WSU the lead with 45 seconds to go and D.J. Rodman put the nail in the coffin with a pair of ice cold free throws to give WSU the season sweep of Stanford.
After a one point victory in Pullman for WSU last time out, the tightly contested battle continued into game two. The teams traded body blows early, with Stanford having the slight edge with a lead getting up to four. After a few minutes without a field goal, Bamba snapped the drought with back-to-back buckets to give WSU the lead back. Andrej Jakimovski piled on with a trey and Kymany Houinsou capped off the 10-0 run with a layup to put WSU up six.
Stanford wouldn’t let WSU get away quite so easily. The Cardinal offense awoke with a Brandon Angel triple to kickstart a 10-3 run to take the lead back. Mouhamed Gueye put together a quick 5-0 run with a dunk and three special to send WSU into the half with the lead.
WSU started the second half hot on both ends. The defense held Stanford at bay while the Cougars put together a 10-3 run of their own to get the lead up to a game-high 8. Justin Powell hit home a triple before Bamba began to take over the second half. Bamba knocked down the next three WSU shots. Between the second and third shots, Stanford got a 6-0 run going to pull back within two. That would be the theme of most of the second half. The Cougars would push the lead up, gain momentum, before the Cardinal boxed their way out of the corner and pulled back within a bucket. Finally, with 5:20 to go, the Cardinal broke through the two-point barrier the Cougar defense had built and tied the game.
The Cardinal got over their next challenge just two minutes later. Spencer Jones knocked down an elbow jumper, while being fouled for an and-one. After hitting the one free throw, Stanford had their first lead since 2:25 left in the first half. The Cougars quickly took the lead back with a big-time Jakimovski three. The Cardinal were also quick to answer with a dunk to tie things back up at 63. With 45 seconds to go, Bamba drove right down the middle of the lane and hit the go-ahead floater. Stanford tried to answer with a short shot of their own but couldn’t get it to fall or get the put back dunk attempt. This gave WSU the ball with a four second difference between the game clock and shot clock. Out of a timeout, the Cougars did a great job of passing the ball around and wasting clock, draining it all the way down to 14 seconds before the Cardinal finally fouled Rodman. The soon-to-be super senior calmly drained the first of a one-and-one free throw attempt and put the game on ice with the second.
After such a rough start to the year, it’s incredible to see this team sitting at .500 in conference play. They have endured so much tough luck on and off the court and now just sit two wins away from securing a winning record. Up next, a trip to Berkley on Saturday to play the California Golden Bears.