WSU failed to get the second half of the Pac-12 schedule off on the right foot when they had no way to slow down UCLA’s juggernaut of an offense as the Bruins beat the Cougars, 95-79.
The margin doesn’t look that bad, and the Cougars were within five points with just over 10 minutes to play, giving the impression that had their chances to really make this a game.
And technically speaking, they did; a two-possession game is a two-possession game. But it never really felt like UCLA was ever truly in danger of losing its grip on the contest.
The decisive run for the Bruins came immediately after the Cougars had closed to within five with 10:46 remaining; they would outscore WSU 16-5 over the next four minutes and whatever realistic shot the Cougs had of winning the game more or less disappeared.
Why? Because even though six minutes left to play is enough time to close a 16-point gap with some hot shooting, it was clear WSU had no way to actually stop UCLA’s offense. The Bruins scored 1.31 points per possession, the most the Cougs have allowed all year (ahead, even, of the 1.30 they gave up to Utah in that 41-point beatdown a couple of weeks ago).
And that was with the fact that UCLA shot just 3-of-16 from beyond the arc. The Bruins have the third best team 3-point percentage in the country at 42 percent; had they shot something close to their average, WSU would have given up around something around 105 points.
This marks the fifth time in the last eight games that WSU has allowed at least 1.22 points per possession as they have dropped all the way to 10th in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency in conference play. (Median Pac-12 defense in conference play: 1.07 points per possession.)
Freshman TJ Leaf was the main culprit, scoring 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting with 14 rebounds, 3 assists and just 1 turnover. Fellow freshman Lonzo Ball had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, while Thomas Welsh had 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Ike Iroegbu led the Cougs with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 4 rebounds and 3 assists, although he also had 4 turnovers. Josh Hawkinson also had 4 turnovers to go with his 15 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists. (Yes, that is correct. Nine assists.) Conor Clifford had 16 points and Robert Franks had 12 points.
The Cougars’ best shot at a win in the next four games is on Saturday, when USC comes to town. The Trojans are fighting for an NCAA tournament berth and can hardly afford a loss. The game tips off at 5 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.