The Washington State Cougars snapped a four-game losing streak to the Washington Huskies as CJ Elleby’s 34 points powered his team to a 79-67 victory in Pullman.
With the win, WSU moves to 14-10 on the season and 5-6 in Pac-12 play under first-year head coach Kyle Smith, while UW and its 10th-ranked recruiting class with two players who will be lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft fell to 12-12 and 2-9 — all alone in last place in the conference.
West side natives in crimson — but Seattle natives in particular — relish the opportunity to put it to the Huskies, and Elleby did just that with his monster performance. He was 9-of-16 from the field, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range.
Elleby also added 10 defensive rebounds, which were perhaps as critical as the points. On a night when the WSU defense was absolutely locked in, holding the Huskies to just 25-of-59 shooting, it was imperative that the smaller Cougs limit second-chance opportunities for Washington. Behind a swarming effort to the defensive glass, the Huskies grabbed just eight offensive rebounds all game — a mere 21% of available opportunities.
The Cougs also forced Washington into turnovers on 23% of its possessions, and it all added up to just 0.89 points per possession for the Huskies — one of their worst offensive performances in the league this season. It was Nerdball at its finest.
Of course, the offense had to do its part, and it wasn’t just Elleby. Jervae Robinson chipped in 10 points on just five attempts plus two assists to go with his usual stellar defense, while Noah Williams — another Seattle player the Huskies had no real interest in — also dropped in 10 (although he needed 11 shots to get there) with six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Isaac Bonton chipped in 12, but it was mitigated by needing 13 shots and he also turned it over a whopping seven times while forcing passes against UW’s zone.
It also didn’t hurt that WSU shot 24-of-28 from the free throw line.
WSU ran out to a 10-point lead midway through the first half thanks to both Elleby and Williams, the latter of whom had repeatedly worked his way to the soft spot in the UW zone at the high post. But then WSU went through one of its signature scoring droughts, going nearly six minutes without a point, as Washington reeled the Cougars back in to trail by just a point with 7:34 to go in the half.
The Cougs held them off with consecutive scoring possessions, but Washington claimed its first lead of the game with three consecutive scoring trips that capped a 15-4 run over 7:04 to make it 26-25 with 5:20 to go in the half. The teams mostly traded buckets from there, although a 3-pointer from Elleby and a runner from Bonton gave the Cougs a five-point lead heading into the break.
It really felt as if this was going to be a seesaw game the rest of the way with a pair of teams that hang their hats on defense making the other fanbase bite their nails. And it was, for a few minutes in the second half — after a quick 5-0 spurt by Washington had erased that five-point WSU halftime lead, there were six lead changes over four minutes.
But the final lead change of the entire game came when Robinson canned a 3-pointer with 15:26 to put WSU in front by two, 46-44, sparking a 10-1 run that pushed the Cougs’ lead back out to eight points.
Washington came back with another 5-0 spurt to whittle it back down to three points, but the Cougs again surged out with a 7-0 run, capped by a Williams breakaway dunk, to lead by 10 — matching their largest lead of the first half.
Yet another 5-0 run by Washington pulled the Huskies back within five, but Elleby, Bonton and Jeff Pollard — who finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds — hit 5-of-6 from the line on their next three possessions while shutting out the Huskies, and the lead was again up to 10 with under six minutes to play.
That’s when Pac-12 Ref had to get involved — all of it revolving around five-star recruit Jaden McDaniels.
First, McDaniels clearly fouled Williams on a fastbreak dunk attempt, going through his arm to get the ball, but there was no call. That would have given WSU a chance to go up by nine with under five minutes to play. Instead, UW generated a fastbreak of its own that led to a free throw by Nahziah Carter that closed the gap to six.
Then, two minutes later — with WSU having extended its lead back out to eight — McDaniels drained a 3 from the top of the key. On his way down, he kicked out his leg to draw contact from Williams, who was sailing by on the late contest. Pac-12 Ref called the foul, which isn’t a foul at all, and McDaniels made the gifted free throw to draw Washington within four with 2:28 to play.
The lead was again up to six 90 seconds later when Bonton probed into the lane. That’s when he drew a foul from McDaniels, who played the ball with his right hand then clearly made excessive contact with Bonton’s head with his left arm in what should have been among the easiest flagrant foul calls to make. Instead, Pac-12 Ref called it a common foul and instead of having a chance to go up eight with possession with just over a minute to play, the Cougars would have to settle for just an eight-point lead.
No matter: After that, Washington would turn the ball over for the 17th time and make just one of its last four shots — a meaningless dunk by Carter — as the Cougars won going away.
When it was all said and done, Washington’s five-star freshmen who will be in the NBA next year — Stewart and McDaniels — scored 27 points on 9-of-23 shooting with 10 turnovers. When you throw in the other freshmen (Marcus Tsohonis and RaeQuan Battle), the total is 40 points on 14-of-37 shooting with 13 turnovers.
Meanwhile, two Seattle recruits the Huskies let get away, Elleby and Williams, combined for 44 points on 13-of-27 shooting with 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 4 steals.
February 10, 2020