The Washington State Cougars hung with the USC Trojans for the first 16 minutes, but a run just before halftime left an 11-point deficit that proved too much to overcome in the end in a 81-71 loss on Thursday night.
WSU guard Ike Iroegbu scored his team's first six points, and hit a layup to give the Cougs a 39-38 lead with 4:08 to go in the first half. After a number of lead changes prior, that was the last lead Wazzu would hold for the night.
USC would score 14 of the final 16 points in the final four minutes before the midway break, and eventually built its largest lead at 16 with 12:01 to play. WSU would make one, slow-developing, final 10-0 run to cut the lead to six as USC went cold from the field, but it wouldn't get any closer. Josh Hawkinson had a chance to pull WSU to within four with a one-and-one opportunity, but he missed the front end, USC drilled a 3 on the ensuing possession, and that was that.
Iroegbu did lead all scorers with 21 points, continuing his recent impressive stretch. The junior had his worst night of the season from 3-point range, hitting just 1 of 5, but he was 6 of 10 on 2-pointers and 6 of 8 on FTs to round out his scoring, while also dropping six assists against just two turnovers.
After a slow start, Hawkinson checked in with another double-double, 16 points and 11 boards. Que Johnson came off the bench for 16 of his own on 12 shots before fouling out late.
In a twist, the WSU defense actually had one of its better halves of the season in the second half against USC, allowing just 0.83 points per possession after giving up 1.40 in the first 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the Cougars could only manage 0.86 themselves and missed an opportunity to come back.
WSU will be back on the court on Saturday against UCLA at 4 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.