Despite their best offensive performance of the early conference season, the Washington State Cougars just couldn’t get enough firepower to outshoot the Oregon Ducks, losing a tight one in Pullman, 89-84.
UO (12-3, 4-0 in Pac-12) splashed a total of 14 threes — seven in each half — and shot better from beyond the arc (58.3%) than they did from inside (58.1%). Even with the Ducks insane offensive output, WSU (10-5, 1-3) was still able to keep up just enough to have the game within a possession with under a minute to go.
Oregon set the tone early by knocking down nine of their first 10 shots from the field to grab a lead as high as nine. On the other side, WSU took shot clock violations in their first two possessions and turned the ball over on their third. After the miscues, the Cougs began to settle in and go on a hot streak of their own. The Cougs one-upped the Ducks by hitting 10 of 11 shots from the field, fueling a 27-16 run to give the Cougs a two-point lead. The run twice included Jaylen Wells being fouled on a three-point attempt. Myles Rice helped anchor the Cougars offense in the half with 12 points on five of eight shooting.
Oregon’s hot shooting wasn’t just a blip on the first period map, it was the entire story. The Ducks shot an absurd 69.2% from the field and hit seven of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half. Meanwhile WSU limped into the halftime break missing their last five shots of the half to hit the break down five.
Not even the halftime Gatorade could cool off these Ducks. Oregon rolled out of the locker room and knocked down their first five shot attempts, including a pair of threes, to extend their lead to 12. As WSU tried to chip into the deficit, Oregon seemed to have an answer for every WSU burst of offense. Like when a Rice and-one was immediately answered from a Jermaine Couisnard contested three. These kind of shots from Oregon prevented WSU from stringing two shots in a row until finally a Rice layup linked up with a pair of Andrej Jakimovski free throws for WSU’s first run of the second half at the 11:52 mark.
While Oregon still kept WSU at an arms length, the Cougs found a spark off the bench from a Wells corner trey to pull within six. The Ducks again responded quick, scoring four more to go back up double-digits and nearly had another bucket that Couisnard just couldn’t finish at the rim. WSU took advantage of the miss and fed the ball into the open freshman Isaiah Watts off the bench for a corner trey on the fastbreak. After Oregon stringed another five points together, Watts drilled another big three from the opposite corner this time.
Watts’ latest three proved to be the start of a run WSU desperately needed. Wells slipped through the defense and banked in the lefty layup and Isaac Jones helped keep the run alive with a block on a Kwame Evans Jr. three attempt just before the buzzer, forcing the shot clock violation. Jones was rewarded for his defensive efforts with a nifty pass inside from Rice to the big man who threw down a powerful dunk over the Duck defenders.
While the Ducks were able to end the 7-0 run, Jones responded with a crisp turnaround shot. WSU pulled within four after Wells collected a Watts miss near the rim, missed the putback and a swarm of Ducks and Cougar hands helped pushed the loose ball up and in with credit going to Wells for the basket.
On the next possession, WSU’s defense looked like it had forced a stop off a missed jumper, but off the offensive rebound, the Ducks were able to kick it to Kario Oquendo who banked in a three before the shot clock buzzer to push the Ducks back up by seven.
Jakimovski — playing in his 100th career game as a Coug — responded with a big three and drew the contact for the chance at a four-point play. Though Jakimovski couldn’t get his free throw to fall, Jackson Shelstad couldn’t hit the frontend of his one and one free throw attempt on the other end and Rice made the Ducks pay with a bucket inside to make it a two point game.
After Oregon knocked the ball out of Rice’s hands on a fastbreak, Jakimovski got a look at a go-ahead three off the inbound that just missed right. Needing another stop, Jadrian Tracey found the soft spot in the WSU zone and drilled a huge three late in the shot clock to put this game on ice with under a minute to go.
Sitting at 1-3 through the first four non-conference games, WSU will need to find a way to get back in the win column quick. Unfortunately, the road doesn’t exactly get much easier for WSU, who will head to southern California to play the USC Trojans on Wednesday night before returning to host the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.