Behind 25 points and 14 rebounds from CJ Elleby, Washington State stunned the No. 8 Oregon Ducks on Thursday night, 72-61. WSU’s defensive effort in the second half helped it overcome a halftime deficit and run away with the game late. A 10-0 run pushed the Cougs from 60-58 to 70-58 with less than a minute to go.
Elleby sparked that run after grabbing his own miss and putting away a bucket plus the foul for a three-point play. WSU’s next possession brought another three-point play from Jeff Pollard, who caught a pinpoint pass in the paint from Isaac Bonton to finish through contact. Another putback from Elleby and free throws from Bonton would cap the decisive run.
Washington State put pressure on Oregon in the first half by hitting seven of its first nine 3s. Turnovers were an issue early, but it was once again the defense that locked down in the second half for a big win.
Oregon would score just 24 second-half points to WSU’s 38. The Ducks made just 9-23 from the floor in the final period, including just 2-10 from 3-point range to go along with eight turnovers.
Bonton chipped in 12 points and 6 assists, but also struggled with six turnovers. However, his defense on Oregon star point guard Payton Pritchard was huge is throwing off the Duck offense in the second half. Pritchard paced the Ducks with 22 points, but matched Bonton with his six turnovers.
This is a huge, unexpected win for a WSU team in its first year under head coach Kyle Smith. Following a disaster of a weekend in the Bay Area and missing three key players, the Cougs could have certainly wilted against an extremely talented Oregon squad.
They did not. The Cougs were resilient. They got some unexpected long-range production from Jervae Robinson and DJ Rodman. They got a warrior’s effort on the inside from Pollard. They finally got that big performance from Elleby.
All that could not have come at a better time, as it led to WSU’s first victory over a top-10 team since 2007. Wazzu improves to 11-7 (2-3), while Oregon drops to 14-4 (3-2).
The Cougs will host a big, energized home crowd on Saturday for Oregon State and Klay Thompson’s jersey retirement.