WSU (14-8, 7-4 in Pac-12) fell behind early and trailed by 13 at the half, but the Cougs cut the Arizona (21-2, 11-1) lead down to four early on in the second half with a 13-4 run.
The Cougars had a chance to bring it within two on a fast break, but TJ Bamba blew the layup and Michael Flowers bobbled what should have been an easy put back. Instead of closing to within two with more than 15 minutes left to play, the Wildcats took advantage and converted a layup on the other end, setting off a 23-7 run to push the lead to 20 and seize control of the game.
In arguably the biggest game hosted at Beasley Coliseum in a decade, the Cougar faithful showed out in droves, packing the student section and selling out the lower bowl of the Coliseum for the largest attended game since Klay Thompson returned to Pullman in 2020.
The Cougars took the Wildcat punches early, tying the game at 10 with 13:42 to go. Arizona proceeded to show why they’re the fourth best team in the nation, beating WSU in the paint to push the lead to eight. Mouhammed Gueye pulled the Cougars back within four with a dunk at the 8:12 mark. Then the infamous scoring drought returned. In a game like this, against a team like this, droughts of any kind spell doom. But the defense held down the Wildcats as best they could, only letting the Wildcats score 13 points over the 7:07 drought. Michael Flowers ended the drought with 1:05 to go in the half and T.J. Bamba got a jumper to fall before the half to cut the halftime deficit to 13. WSU shot just 9-34 from the field and missed all 12 three point attempts in the first half. While Arizona’s defense is one of the best in the nation, WSU didn’t help themselves by missing open shots throughout the first twenty minutes of play.
Efe Abogidi got the second half start for WSU with his own 7-2 run, hitting WSU’s first three of the game to pull WSU within nine. Tyrell Roberts hit a three on the next possession and Flowers sent Beasley into a frenzy on a three of his own a minute later and the Cougars were within four. The Cougars jumped on an Arizona turnover and got a two on one fastbreak with Bamba and Flowers leading the charge. Bamba’s layup attempt rolled out but a trailing Flowers was there to put it back. Flower’s shot missed and the opportunity to pull within two was squandered.
The Wildcats took over from there. Arizona made their next six shot attempts and suddenly, the deficit that was just a friendly roll away from being two, was now 14. Over the next seven minutes, the Wildcats score 25 points and the game looked out of reach as the Wildcats lead grew to 22. All the momentum and energy quickly evaporated from the once rocking Beasley Coliseum. The arena reached it’s quietest when Gueye’s ankle was inadvertently stepped on in the post, forcing the big man to fall to the ground in pain and never return to the game. Arizona put the game on cruise control from there and coasted to a 12-point win.
It’s a punch in the gut to a Cougar team that was riding high off a five-game win streak and looked to punctuate it with a monumental victory in front of a packed house. The defense played well, holding the high octane Arizona offense to their second lowest scoring game of the season, forcing 18 turnovers and kept the Cougars in the game when the offense went cold. But it’s hard to win games when you shoot 26.5% from the field and miss your first 12 three point attempts in the first half. While the Cougars fought tooth and nail to get back in it, with the three-pointers finally falling, the Wildcats proved that they are one of the best teams in the nation by simply flipping the switch and taking full control.
The Cougars will look to get back on track with the Arizona State Sun Devils coming in on Saturday night.