After getting back in the win column on Thursday night, the Washington State Cougars returned to more familiar territory when they lost to the surging Utah Runnin’ Utes on Saturday night, 77-70.
The Cougars are now 10-16 overall and 2-12 in the Pac-12. They have lost 16 of their past 20 games.
Cold early shooting put WSU in an early hole, as Utah ran out to a 33-13 lead with just under six minutes to go in the first half. But a bit of hot shooting got them feeling like they were back in it, as a pair of threes from Robert Franks and another one by Kwinton Hinson — as well as four free throws from Franks — fueled a 15-5 run to close the half and cut the lead to 10.
The good feelings didn’t last, though; Utah scored the first seven points of the second half as the Cougs went cold again, missing their first five shots out of the break.
The lead remained double digits for most of the second half, but a three-pointer by Viont’e Daniels pulled WSU to within eight with just under seven minutes to go. A few minutes later, they got it down to six, but every time the Cougs made a little push, the Utes had an answer.
The last run at it came when Daniels hit another three — he finished with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range — to get it down to four with 1:43 to play, but an offensive foul by Malachi Flynn (who otherwise had an excellent offensive game) eventually resulted in a bucket on the other end by Justin Bibbins with 26 seconds to play, and the threat was effectively ended. Utah made five of its last six field goal attempts.
It was a bizarre offensive night for the Cougs, who shot 41 three-pointers, but only 20 twos. Despite shooting on 35 percent on the twos, they hit enough of those threes (15) to pace an effective and efficient offensive showing at 1.11 points per possession.
But — as it has so often this season — the defense let WSU down. Utah was the sixth opponent in the last seven games to post an effective field goal percentage of at least 60, and the Utes scored 1.22 points per possession. That’s their second-highest mark of the season, slightly behind what they posted against the Cougs the first time around.
WSU now heads to Berkeley on Thursday looking for a season sweep of the California Golden Bears.