The Washington State Cougars (9-6, 2-2 in Pac-12) picked up a huge conference win on the road against the Utah Runnin’ Utes (8-8, 1-5 in Pac-12) by a 77-61 final score on Saturday afternoon.
Despite a surge from Utah in the second half to cut the Cougar lead down from 19 to as little as eight, the Cougars were able to get enough stops on the defensive end paired with a handful of key shots to help maintain their distance and escape Salt Lake City with their first road win against the Utes since 1946. The victory was also WSU’s first ever conference win on the road against either of the 2011 mountain expansion schools (Colorado and Utah).
The Cougars got guard Noah Williams back from COVID protocols but the star guard would start the game on the bench. The Utes were missing their leading scorer, Branden Carlson, due to appendicitis.
Both teams got out to hot starts offensively. The Cougar offense got going early beyond the perimeter with 15 of WSU’s first 19 points via three-pointers from the likes of Michael Flowers, Tyrell Roberts, T.J. Bamba and D.J. Rodman. After scoring 13 points in the first seven and a half minutes, the Utes’ offense was held in check from the field but they were still able to find points at the charity stripe. Utah finished the first half with more free throws made (11) than field goals (9).
The Cougar offense found a new method of scoring after a four-minute drought early in the first half. High pick-and-rolls with freshman forward Mouhamed Gueye allowed the WSU to pick apart the Utes lack of a defensive post presence. Gueye put up his first collegiate double-digit point half with a multitude of dunks and layups on rolls to the basket off high screens. The 11 points in just a five and a half minute span from the Senegal freshman helped balloon the Cougar lead to 10 going into the halftime break.
Roberts was able to continue his hot weekend into the second half, scoring eight of the Cougars first 15 second half points to push the lead up to 19. The Utes wouldn’t go away quietly, cutting the 19 point lead down to just nine after a 12-2 Utah run. The Cougar offense would continue to slump, going on a pair of scoring droughts lasting more than two and a half minutes. Thankfully for WSU, the Cougar defense kept the Utes’ handful of runs from drawing any closer than nine points for a majority of the half.
The Utes were finally able to close the lead to eight with 1:39 on the clock. Williams would miss the first of a one-and-one free throw chance, but Andrej Jakimovski would come up with a clutch offensive rebound to let the Cougars drain more time off the clock. Flowers would knock down a pair of free throws that would push the lead back up to 10. The Cougs would add four more free throws and a Williams layup before the shot clock buzzer to seal a huge 77-61 win for Washington State.
Roberts led the team in scoring for the second-straight game, scoring 17 points. He was one of five Cougars to score double-digit points. Flowers (12), Gueye (11), Williams (11) and Jakimovski (10) joined Roberts in the double-digit scoring party.
It’s a big win for the Cougars, who had previously dropped four of their last five contests.
WSU will continue its conference slate on Thursday afternoon back home against the Stanford Cardinal.