WSU's improbable run at the beginning of Pac-12 play continued with its most improbable performance of the season as the Cougars defeated the Oregon Ducks in overtime, 108-99, to move to 3-1 in Pac-12 play.
Yes, you read that final score correctly.
If you've got a DVR, you're going to want to find the replay and record it for posterity - it was that good and that crazy. The Cougs had 57 points at halftime* - the same Cougs who couldn't reach 57 points in three of their first four games against UTEP, TCU and UC Santa Barbara.
It was an offensive performance the likes of which we might not see again for some time. The Cougars scored a whopping 1.3 points per possession while shooting a crazy 71.4 effective field goal percentage. They shot nearly identically from two and three in the game.
And as they now sit in third place, tied with Arizona(!) and just a game behind Utah(!), the transformation from painfully inept to undeniably exciting seems to be complete. I mean:
Those are two of the highlights, but it's not much of an exaggeration to say that the whole game was like that, with both teams conducting all-out assaults on their baskets. The Cougs got huge performances in the first half from their best players, with DaVonte Lacy, Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu each scoring 13 or more points. Iroegbu was particularly efficient, with 16 points on six attempts while adding a couple of assists and a rebound.
Oregon countered with Joseph Young, who would score 15 in the first half while playing all 20 minutes. WSU led 57-52 at the break.
The Ducks came out strong in the second half, with Young scoring the first seven points to erase the deficit, and from there it was a back-and-forth affair. There were 14 lead changes and four ties; neither team held more than a five-point lead the rest of the way until the Cougs stretched it out in overtime.
It felt like WSU might pull it out in regulation when Brett Boese hit a 3-pointer from the corner with just under two minutes remaining to give WSU a 91-89 lead. But as he did all night, Young brought his team level with a jumper. Iroegbu hit a pair of free throws to put WSU back up again, but Elgin Cook was able to get free for a layup with 27 seconds remaining.
WSU had a chance to win it in regulation, but the offense stalled against Oregon's zone. DaVonte Lacy did get a drive to the basket, but some moderate contact wasn't called - this, in a game that featured 49 fouls - and the game was off to overtime.
The teams traded buckets and free throws for the first couple of minutes before WSU was able to take control. Hawkinson slipped a screen to get on the receiving end of a beautiful feed from Iroegbu, putting the Cougs up two with two minutes to go. Oregon missed its shot, Junior Longrus - who was huge down the stretch defensively - grabbed the board, Iroegbu drew a foul and hit his free throws, and the game was out of reach.
While Hawkinson (26 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks), Lacy (24 points, five rebounds, four assists), and Iroegbu (20 points, five assists) piled up the gaudiest stats, it would be fair to say it was the bench players who truly led the way to the victory. Lacy took a knock to his knee in a collision early in OT, rendering him less effective to the point that Kent took him out as much as he could in the last few minutes. That left Ny Redding, Iroegbu, Longrus, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Brett Boese to try and hold the lead.
All they did was hold Oregon without a field goal on the Ducks' last eight attempts. They hit their free throws down the stretch to provide a comfortable margin.
Young finished with a game-high 32 points, which Elgin Cook provided the game's other double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
It's hard to believe this is the same team that looked so terrible in the first couple of games of the year. The improvement has very nearly been unbelievable, and if you're not all-in on watching this team, you really might want to fix that. They're playing hard, they're having fun and ... they're winning.
*Twelve times last season, WSU scored 57 points or fewer in an entire game; Tony Bennett's final team in 2009 scored 57 points or fewer 17 times.