Oregon (17-8, 10-4 in Pac-12) seemingly put the dagger in WSU (14-10, 7-6) with a Will Richardson three to take a nine-point lead with 60 seconds to go. Michael Flowers hit a three to pull WSU within six with 25 seconds to go and hit another one 13 seconds later after Oregon turned the ball back over. De’Vion Harmon missed the front end of one-and-one, giving the Cougars one last shot. Flowers’ deep three rimmed out, Efe Abogidi reeled in the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Noah Williams whose desperation three missed at the buzzer.
Both teams entered Monday fresh off home losses to inferior conference opponents and looked to get a bounce back win today to put their tournament hopes back on track. Not only are both teams chasing at-large bids in March, but they are also gunning for that coveted fourth place in the Pac-12 that earns you a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. With the win, Oregon jumped comfortably into third at 10-4 in conference, overtaking 9-4 UCLA. WSU now sits two games back of fourth place UCLA with the LA trip coming up this weekend.
You wouldn’t be able to tell the significance and urgency of the game based off the teams’ early three-point shooting. The teams combined to miss their first 14 treys with WSU missing its first nine. If it weren’t for the emergence of Noah Williams in the first half, the Cougars may have been routed early on. Williams shot 5-6 and hit back-to-back three-point attempts to finish the half with 11. Outside of Flowers and Williams, the Cougar offense shot just 3-17 (17.6%) in the first half.
Halftime seemed to awaken the rest of the Cougars as they opened the half with a 14-3 run and held Oregon scoreless for the first six minutes. T.J. Bamba got the Cougars’ lead to its highest of the game at five with 13:18 to go and it looked like the Cougs had taken control.
But like clockwork, the infamous WSU scoring drought reared its ugly head again.
WSU didn’t get a single field goal to fall over the next 5:47, allowing Oregon to crawl their way back to a lead. The offense for the Cougs never got back on track. Williams, who looked primed for a much-needed breakout game, didn’t get any of his 10 second half shots to fall, getting just one point off a free throw. Tyrell Roberts shot just 1-7. After the Bamba bucket, only two Cougars recorded a made field goal; Flowers hit three treys and Efe Abogidi had one dunk to snap the scoring drought.
The Cougars stayed within four until about 4:32 left in the game when Oregon pushed the lead to 7 with a quick 6-0 run. The game appeared all but over after WSU’s offense continued to flail and Richardson hit the wide open three in the corner on the inbound to give Oregon a 9-point lead. Especially after Roberts’ three attempt missed and Oregon headed to line to push the lead to double-digits. Quincy Guerrier missed the first of a one-and-one, handing the ball back to WSU. Roberts and Williams both missed threes on the possession before Flowers hit the third attempt on the Cougars second offensive rebound.
WSU’s defense got the turnover and Flowers three to pull back within three with 12 seconds left. Oregon again missed the front end of one-and-one free throws, gifting WSU one last chance. Flowers dribbled the ball up the court and heaved a deep three that looked good on release but just rimmed out. Abogidi reeled in the offensive board and kicked it out to Williams, who couldn’t draw the contact on his final three attempt and the Cougars losing streak extended to three.
The road doesn’t get any easier for WSU as they head to play the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night.