Behind 11 points in overtime from Cody Riley, the UCLA Bruins defeated the Washington State Cougars, 86-83, in Los Angeles on Thursday night. Riley finished with 19 points on just 10 shots, and completely took over against a tired WSU squad in the extra period. Chris Smith would top the Bruins with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
WSU led by as many as 12 in the second half, and held the lead in the final minute down the stretch. In the final two possessions of regulation, WSU could only muster a pair of difficult Isaac Bonton jumpers with a chance to put the game away.
Those two possessions are tough to swallow for WSU, but this was a meltdown defensively down the stretch for the Cougs—something that has happened repeatedly on the road this season. UCLA would hit 55 percent of its 2-pointers, a number that shot up as Wazzu wore down in the closing minutes and overtime. When they weren’t hitting, UCLA would was also a terror on the offensive glass—posting 16 offensive rebounds that resulted in 14 second-chance points.
It was a wonder that WSU even had a chance, with CJ Elleby struggling mightily. The Cougs’ leading scorer mustered just 10 points—three of which were on a meaningless shot with one second to go in overtime. He finished 4-18 and didn’t take a single free throw.
Jeff Pollard was the surprise of the day, notching a career-high 20 points backed by a career-high four three-pointers. Unfortunately Pollard also played what is likely a career-high in 38 minutes, and he seemed to be out of gas by the time overtime began.
Bonton, who finished with a team-high 23 points, gave WSU its biggest lead at 50-38 with a drive and tough layup that capped a dominant stretch for the junior point guard. UCLA would immediately answer with a 7-0 run fueled by a pair of WSU turnovers. Another Bonton basket and a third second-half 3 from UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. put the score to 52-48 at the under-12 timeout. At that point, the game was on.
Elleby pushed it to 54-50, but a David Singleton three pulled UCLA within one. A wild shot from Bonton followed by a pair of turnovers ensued. The second seemed like it would be particularly harmful, as a poor pass led to a break for UCLA ending in a questionable flagrant foul call on Noah Williams. The Bruins would miss the free throws and two shots on the possession to come up empty. The ball made one heck of an effort not to lie.
But it was Singleton again from 3 to give UCLA a 56-54 lead with seven minutes left. Williams would tie the game at 56 with a pair of free throws. The Bruins grabbed the lead back on a pair of Jaquez freebies. Williams would answer with two more from the stripe—he’d hit another pair to give the Cougs the lead at 63-61 following Pollard’s fourth 3-pointer of the game (which answered a Chris Smith 3-pointer).
Tony Miller’s putback off a Bonton drive and miss would push the lead to 65-61, drawing a UCLA timeout. Two easy UCLA buckets would tie. Pollard would draw a foul off a pump-fake at the 3-point line—something that happens when you are burying four 3s in a game—and hit two free throws.
Smith would tie for UCLA with 17 seconds left. WSU’s final possession of regulation was puzzling, as Bonton walked up the floor and waited to settle for an errant 28-footer off the dribble.
WSU took a 34-30 halftime lead behind balanced scoring, keeping them afloat while Elleby struggled. UCLA’s effort to deny Elleby led to some good penetration, primarily from Bonton, and that meant some easy buckets for Pollard and Miller.
It was an advantage in 3-pointers coupled with some solid defense that gave WSU an early lead. UCLA would go 6-11 from deep and 9-17 from inside the arc to post 39 points in the second half.
The loss drops WSU to 14-11 on the season and 5-7 in conference play. UCLA improves to 14-11 (7-5). The Cougs head across town to face USC at 5 pm PT on Saturday. One note of concern going forward—Bonton left the UCLA game late in overtime with what looked like a non-contact injury.