The Washington State Cougars erased a 10-point second-half deficit behind lockdown defense and a scoring outburst from sophomore DJ Rodman to beat the Oregon State Beavers, 59-55.
It was the first Pac-12 win of the season for the Cougars, who also moved to 3-0 on the season. The Beavers dropped to 2-1 (0-1 Pac-12).
WSU held a small-but-consistent lead throughout the first half as both teams struggled to find any kind of rhythm offensively — both teams shot under 40%, including under 30% from beyond the arc — but it was OSU who took the lead into the break. Noah Williams hit a three to give WSU a five-point lead with 4:29 to go in the half, but they went cold from there, as OSU finished the half on an 8-0 run to take a three-point lead into the break.
It was the third consecutive game WSU trailed at the break, which is hardly ideal, but it also meant the Cougs weren’t rattled by the circumstances, having come back to win the last two. Besides, it was only a three-point deficit.
That belief was taken to its limit, however, when OSU extended its lead to 10 in almost the blink of an eye, rattling off seven points in the first 67 seconds thanks to a pair of WSU miscues.
The lead was still 10 points with just over 14 minutes to go when the Cougs’ offense finally found its footing — and its outside shot — powered by Rodman and Isaac Bonton.
With the WSU defense locking the Beavers down, Efe Abogidi got things rolling with a monster dunk off of a nifty feed from Bonton, who stole the ball on the ensuing possession and turned the fast break into a trip to the free throw line for two more points to cut the lead to six.
After a made free throw by Dearon Tucker, WSU would strike next when Rodman surprised just about everyone with a hard drive into the lane and a nice lefty finish at the rim. Bonton added a stepback jumper from 15 feet to trim it to three points. It was as close as they had been since the half, but they weren’t done.
The two teams would go a couple of minutes without any scoring, but it was Rodman who would finally put the Cougs back on even footing, draining a 3-pointer off an assist from Bonton. The Cougs would take the lead a minute later when Noah Williams drained a pair of shots from the free throw line, capping a 13-1 run.
WSU would not simply roll from there, however. OSU scored the next five — including a 3-pointer from Ethan Thompson — to take a four-point lead.
But Rodman and Bonton took over once again. A 3-pointer from Rodman cut the lead to one, then a 3 from Bonton — which followed an offensive rebound by WSU — put the Cougs back in front by two. A turnover by Thompson led to a fast break layup by Rodman — assisted by Bonton, of course — who then buried another 3-pointer to put the Cougars up by seven with 5:47 to go.
In all, the decisive run was a 24-7 run over 8:37.
It was a lead WSU would not relinquish the rest of the way, although OSU was able to make it interesting, trimming it all the way down to one point with just under a minute to go. The Beavers even had a chance to take the lead after a missed 3 by Bonton, but Jaz Kunc came up with a loose ball, was fouled, and calmly drained both free throws. OSU missed a three, Bonton made a free throw with 6.5 seconds to go, and it was academic from there.
Rodman finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting — including 3-of-4 from distance — and 5 rebounds, plus an assist. He was one of four Cougs in double figures, led by Bonton with 15, while Williams and Kunc each added 12. Efe Abogidi scored just 5 points, but he cleaned up 7 rebounds and swatted 3 shots.
It was the defense, though, that was the true star of the show, allowing just 0.81 points per possession — the first time the Beavers have been held below a point per possession this season.
The Cougars will next be in action on Saturday when the competition takes another step up: They’ll travel to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes in a 1 p.m. PT tipoff.