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WSU escapes Cal with Bay Area sweep, 63-57

The “Cal BS” couldn’t stop the Cougs.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at California Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars pulled away in the second half against the California Golden Bears for a 63-57 victory.

WSU (15-15, 10-9 in Pac-12) was again anchored by another big second half from T.J. Bamba, who scored 14 in the second half alone. Cal, (3-26, 2-16) in typical Cal fashion, kept the game way too close for a large majority before the Cougars used a 14-5 run to seize control.

Mouhamed Gueye started hot with all seven of the Cougars first seven points in the first three minutes to give WSU the slight edge. Jack Wilson (yes you read that right) was the first Coug not named Gueye to score to put the Cougars up four. Joel Brown got a layup to fall to bring Cal within two, but the Cougars immediately responded with a 7-0 run. T.J. Bamba kicked off the run with an and-one and Kymany Houinsou closed it with a beautiful fastbreak finish. Unfortunately for the Cougs, that would be the last run of the half. Like most games against Cal, the game eventually reached an ugly stretch. The Cougars wouldn’t be able to string two or more buckets in a row together while Cal slowly chipped into the lead, making it just a three point game before half.

The power struggle for control of the lead continued into the second half. Each bucket was matched by the other. Even when Cal went on a five minute field goal drought, WSU couldn’t pull away, matching with a six minute field goal drought of their own. While Cal couldn’t convert from the field, they were able to get their free throws to fall, drawing the game to a tie.

Justin Powell finally snapped the field goal drought with a layup and opened the floodgates at the same time. Bamba kept things rolling with a three ball to put WSU up five. Jabe Mullins converted two free throws to keep the run going and Gueye bookended the 7-0 run with a beautiful fadeaway shot to give WSU a nine point lead with four and a half minutes to go. The Golden Bear offense continued to flail down the stretch, failing to put together a run that could threaten WSU’s momentum. Monty Bowser tried to keep TVs on with a three to bring Cal back within five with 13 seconds left, but it would be far too late as Bamba hit home one last free throw and Cal missed their desperation shot at the end of the game.

With one game left on the schedule, the Cougars can not only secure a winning record in Pac-12 play, but secure a winning record overall on the 2022-23 season. After the rough start, the turnaround has been miraculous and a testament to the resiliency of this team.

One last regular season in Seattle against the Washington Huskies on Thursday before the Cougars set their sights on the Pac-12 tournament.