The Washington State Cougars came close to securing their first weekend sweep of the season, but they came up just short, losing to the Stanford Cardinal, 86-84.
It was the Cougs’ best offensive performance of the season — they scored a season-high 1.26 points per possession on 57 percent shooting. That included shooting 11-of-23 from three-point range, the last two of which came in the final five minutes as WSU clawed back from a 10-point deficit.
First, Viont’e Daniels hit a three. Then, after a stop, Malachi Flynn found a crease in the defense and drove to the rim for one of his high-arcing running layups. Following another stop, Robert Franks missed a long three, but Drick Bernstine kept the loose ball alive long enough for Flynn to swoop in and grab the ball at the free throw line before diving to the rim for an uncontested layup.
Just like that, WSU was within three.
After the teams traded a pair of free throws, Stanford freshman Daejon Davis made one of the tougher layups you’ll see to put the Cardinal back up five:
✔️ Put 'em on skates— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 25, 2018
✔️ Hang in the air for days
✔️ Get the @OpusBank #12Best Moment#Pac12Hoops pic.twitter.com/IB0iiu1bws
The Cougars refused to give up. Daniels hit another three with his best Klay Thompson impersonation — pump faking beyond the arc before side stepping to get a clean look. Now down only by two, WSU desperately needed a stop. The Cougs got just that when Flynn came up with a steal, leading to a fast break dunk by Franks.
But Davis struck again. He drove deep on Milan Acquaah, who did a fair job staying in front of Davis, but Bernstine got caught with his hands in the cookie jar, reaching for the ball and committing a fairly weak foul on a difficult shot. Davis hit both free throws.
With 10 seconds left, Flynn brought the ball up the floor and his teammates cleared out. As he had for most of the final five minutes, Stanford coach Jerod Haase had 6-foot-8 Kezie Okpala locked up on him — a bad matchup for the 6-foot-1 Flynn.
Lacking a timeout, the Cougs were unable to get out of the play, and Flynn elected to step back and hoist a three. It was well short. And the game was over.
Ernie Kent was encouraged after the performance, as he should be; Stanford has been a terrible place for the Cougs over the years. But the harsh reality is this: WSU gave up 86 points on 67 possessions — a whopping 1.29 points per possession. (Fun fact: That wasn’t even the worst defensive performance of the season.)
Until the Cougs figure something out on that end, there will be more nights like this one, where they really should have been able to come home with a win.
Franks led the Cougs with 19 points and six rebounds, while Flynn and Bernstine each contributed 16. Reid Travis had 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Okpala also contributed 20.
WSU welcomes the Oregon schools to Pullman for the final weekend of the regular season. The Ducks are up first on Thursday.