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WSU comes up clutch in final minutes, beats Cal, 65-57

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No close loss this time.

PULLMAN, WA - JANUARY 15: Washington State Men’s Basketball versus the California Golden Bears at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State guard Tyrell Roberts (2) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

The Washington State Cougars picked up a big victory over the California Golden Bears in much-needed fashion, holding on to, and building on, a lead in the final minutes, to win 65-57.

After the gut-wrenching collapse on Thursday, Washington State (10-7, 3-3 Pac-12) flipped the script. They took a lead into crunch time, held on, grinded it out on both sides of the ball and pushed the game out of reach. In the closing three minutes, the Cougars were able to outscore Cal (9-9, 2-5) 9-3 to push the lead to the final margin of eight.

The Cougars again got going early in the paint. Efe Abogidi and Mouhammed Gueye scored 12 of the Cougars’ first 17 points. TJ Bamba pushed the lead up to seven with a breakaway dunk with six minutes to go in the first half. Cal would slowly grind their way back, hitting six free throws and outscoring WSU 12-6 following the Bamba dunk to take a narrow two-point lead into the halftime break.

WSU came out of the locker room shooting a barrage of threes. Bamba and Andrej Jakimovski helped give WSU the lead back with a trio of three-pointers in the first five minutes of the half. Cal regained the lead at the 14:58 mark at 42-41. Flowers would draw a foul on a 3-point shot and hit all three free throws to hand the lead back to WSU. The teams would trade body blows over the next three minutes before WSU would go on a 9-2 run, capped off by another Jakimovski three to give WSU a seven-point lead going into the final five minutes. The Golden Bears responded right back with a five-point punch to cut the lead down to two. Cougar fans couldn’t help but think of all of those late blown leads and wonder if the Cougars were headed down the road traveled all too often.

Michael Flowers hit a three to push the lead back up to five. The defense would get a stop and Gueye hit one of two free throws on the other end. Yet another big defensive stop from WSU and Flowers hit an open Gueye in the paint who threw down a dunk, with a little extra aggression, to give WSU it’s largest lead of the game at eight. Cal pulled back within five and Jakimovski couldn’t get his fifth tree-pointer to fall, but Noah Williams soared up and pulled down a huge offensive rebound. Williams drew a foul and hit both free throws that all but sealed the humungous late victory for WSU. Williams would add one more free throw seconds later to allow WSU to win the game by the largest margin of the day, eight.

The game was close the entire way with 11 lead changes and ties. Getting a win today was critical, but getting a win in the fashion that had tormented WSU all season long was massive. Going into the final few minutes, holding on to a close lead and getting those clutch baskets to fall to not only hold a lead, but build a comfortable lead in the final seconds.

Jakimovski was the hero today, leading the team with 16 points on four three pointers. He also recorded seven rebounds.

The win creates a huge boost for the Cougars as they get ready for a road trip to visit their neighbors to the southwest. It will be the Oregon Ducks next on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. and will conclude the road trip against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday.