Isaac Bonton scored 27 points and Washington State scored a whopping 50 points in the second half, but neither were enough as the Cougars lost to the USC Trojans, 85-77, dropping their third game in a row.
It was the fourth loss in five games after an 8-0 start for WSU, dropping the Cougars to 9-4 and 2-4 in the Pac-12. USC, meanwhile, improved to 11-2 and 5-1 and almost certainly will find themselves ranked in the next AP Top 25 poll — a clearly overdue recognition for the Trojans.
The game went about as expected right out of the gate, with the Trojans methodically pulling ahead behind suffocating defense — after 11 minutes, USC’s lead reached double digits for the first time, and the Trojans would take a 12-point lead into the break, 39-27. Only strong showings from Bonton (12 points) and Dishon Jackson (11 points) kept the game from spiraling out of hand as it did on Thursday against UCLA.
After the break, though, WSU put together about as strong of an offensive half as you will see from them this season, scoring an impressive 1.25 points per possession against the Pac-12’s top defense in conference play. And it almost was enough for the Cougars to make an actual game out of it, despite trailing by 15 with 7:30 to play.
The 11-0 run kicked off with a Bonton layup, followed by 3-pointers from Andrej Jakimovski and Noah Williams before being capped by a layup and foul by Williams, who would drain the free throw to make it 73-69. The margin was still four with just over three minutes to go, and it appeared WSU might just have a shot.
But the Cougars just could not get enough, plagued in particular by an uncommon struggle with defensive rebounding, as the Trojans scored 9 of the next 11 points to lead by 11 with 5 seconds to play; only a meaningless Bonton 3-pointer provided the final margin.
WSU’s porous defense was once again a theme of the game, as the Trojans shot 52% on 2s and grabbed nearly 40% of their own misses — all while only turning it over on a paltry 10% of possessions. USC is the third consecutive opponent to score better than 1.11 points per possession against WSU, the first time that has happened under coach Kyle Smith; the Cougs had not allowed even 1.0 ppp this season until these last three games.
In addition to his 29 points, Bonton had 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. Williams and Jackson each added 14 points, with Jackson also grabbing 7 rebounds. Efe Abogidi turned things around a bit, as well, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for his first double-double in conference play.
Tahj Eaddy led the Trojans with 21 points.
The Cougars will next be in action on Thursday against Utah in Pullman.