The WSU Cougars survived an uncharacteristically hot shooting night from Oregon State to beat the Beavers 75-62 and move to 2-0 in conference play for the first time since Tony Bennett was coach.
WSU is now 9-5 overall on the season, while OSU drops to 4-12 and 0-3 in the Pac-12.
The Beavers have been a bad shooting team this season, particularly from long range. But after a Conor Clifford layup gave the Cougs a 9-point lead with just under eight minutes to go in the first half, WSU fell victim to the most onerous of WSU defensive phenomena: That Random Dude You’ve Never Heard Of Shooting Out Of His Mind.
In this case, it was Kendall Manuel.
Manuel — fresh off a 1-for-8 shooting performance last weekend against USC and UCLA — hit a trio of 3s in the last five or so minutes of the half to help the Beavers head into the locker room down just five points when it felt like the Cougs might be ready to just run away with it, thanks to plays like this, where OSU’s tendency to self-sabotage with turnovers was rearing its head:
Manuel didn’t stop at the break, though: He’d hit three more 3s in the first six minutes of the second half to power the Beavers to a three-point lead with 14 minutes to play. A Drew Eubanks layup a minute later gave OSU a five-point lead, and it was starting to feel like WSU might miss out on a golden opportunity to pick up a conference win against a weak opponent.
However, one advantage of having a team loaded with seniors is that they play composed when things get rough. The Cougs recovered to trade baskets with OSU for the next few minutes, then they did what they did so well on Sunday: They finished strong.
WSU completed the game on a 17-3 run keyed by — who else? — freshman point guard Malachi Flynn.
Flynn didn’t take a lot of shots early, but when it came time to make big plays down the stretch, he came alive once again, having a hand in 10 of those 17 points. He scored eight on his own, thanks to a couple of 3-pointers, and had a nice assist on a Josh Hawkinson layup as the shot clock was winding down at the end of the game.
Flynn finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and zero turnovers — his second consecutive game without giving the ball away. Eleven of his points were scored after halftime, coming on the heels of scoring 13 of his 16 points after halftime against UW.
The defense — which wasn’t terrible in the first half but didn’t make life as hard on Manuel as it probably could have — came up huge repeatedly down the stretch, clamping down on open 3-point attempts and creating turnovers (OSU’s calling card) that led to transition opportunities the other way. Like this one:
Hawkinson led the team with 20 points and 11 rebounds, moving into third on the school’s all-time career rebounding list. Much like his 26 points against UW on Sunday, it wasn’t an eye-catching performance, just the kind of workmanlike game we’ve come to expect: Some post baskets, some offensive rebound putbacks, some midrange jumpers, some free throws and even a couple of deep shots from beyond the arc.
Five different players scored in double figures for WSU, which put up a stellar 1.27 points per possession against what had been a top 100 defense in adjusted efficiency: Hawkinson, Flynn, Ike Iroegbu (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers), Clifford (13 points) and Robert Franks (10 points).
That is the highest points per possession OSU has allowed all season, and the Cougs’ 59 effective field goal percentage was the third highest allowed by the Beavers.
The Cougars now return to Pullman, where they await the arrival of No. 15 Oregon for Saturday’s game. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. PST for broadcast on Pac-12 Network.