The Washington State Cougars followed up their biggest win of the season with maybe their worst loss as they traveled to Berkeley and fell to the California Golden Bears, 73-66.
The Cougs (10-6 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) used a 10-0 run to rush out to a 25-11 lead as the Golden Bears (7-8 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) turned the ball over repeatedly. But it didn’t take long for Cal to respond with a run of its own — a 23-3 run in which the Cougars couldn’t make a shot and couldn’t generate any turnovers, and the Golden Bears took a 40-34 lead into halftime.
The second half was generally more of the same, as WSU trailed by double digits for much of the period as they struggled mightily to contain Cal’s penetration — something they haven’t struggled much with all season. The game appeared to be out of reach throughout most of the second half.
However, the Cougs did continue to scrap defensively and eventually pulled themselves to within three points with 55 seconds to play at 69-66 when Noah Williams hit a pair of free throws — two of his 16 points on the evening. The game was put out of reach, though, when Matt Bradley hit a step-back three pointer with 28 seconds to go to deliver the dagger.
The WSU defense had a more difficult time in this one than it has had in a while, allowing 1.06 points per possession to Cal, the most the Golden Bears had scored in nearly a month; their 54.9 eFG% was also the most since late November.
“They made an adjustment and they started playing two guards,” Kyle Smith said. “We just didn’t keep (them) in front of us. Obviously we’re trying to negotiate, we were in some foul trouble. Isaac [Bonton] had fouls, CJ [Elleby] had fouls, kind of tilted the game there. If I had to do it over, I’d probably use more timeouts.”
Coming off the worst weekend of his college career, Elleby had a nice bounce-back game: 22 points on 6-of-17 shooting with nine rebounds, two assists and a steal. Bonton had himself a pretty efficient night, scoring 10 points on six shots with four assists.
“It’s only our third road game, to be honest,” Smith said. “Those are tough, you’ve got to make shots to get games on the road in league. We had some opportunities and then Bradley played terrific tonight. He had a big (shot). You’ve got to hat tip that a little bit. He misses that, we’ve got some momentum, we’ve got a chance.”
The road now gets much tougher for WSU with a trip to Stanford to face the Cardinal on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network at 3 p.m. PT.