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WSU’s upset chance falls short, USC wins in final second, 62-60

It’s groundhogs day. WSU couldn’t hold on to the lead late.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars lost to the No. 17 USC Trojans as the Trojans hit the game-winner in the final second, 62-60, on Sunday in Los Angeles.

USC (23-4, 12-4 in Pac-12) got the final possession of the game with 23 seconds left. Boogie Ellis, guarded by Tyrell Roberts, drove to the free throw line, created space and knocked down the game winning shot with 0.2 seconds left. WSU (14-12, 7-8) scored just three points in the final five minutes after being up as much as eight in the second half.

With the loss, it all but secures WSU finishing the regular season without a “Quad 1” win. After rattling off four straight wins to step up this crucial stretch of five games, the Cougars come out of it with five straight losses.

Dishon Jackson made his first appearance for the Cougars since suffering an eye injury against Utah on January 8th. The sophomore scored five points, grabbed four rebounds and had three blocks.

The Cougars looked on their way to back-to-back blowout losses early on. The Trojans jumped out to a quick 16-6 lead five minutes into the game. Drew Peterson led the charge early on with seven of those 16 points. The Cougars began to rally back behind great defense and a barrage of treys. After trailing by 10, WSU punched right back with a 26-12 run, 21 of those points coming from beyond the arc. Noah Williams and Roberts each had a trio of treys. The hot shooting pushed the Cougars into a four-point lead at the halftime break. The Cougars were living in this game by the three.

The onslaught of threes continued for the Cougars. Andrej Jakimovski and Michael Flowers scored 12 of the Cougars’ first 14 points of the half, all on triples, and gave WSU its largest lead of the game at eight with 12:33 to go. Both teams traded buckets over the next seven minutes with WSU keeping USC at at least a five-point deficit. D.J. Rodman hit a three on a catch and shoot with 6:57 to go.

WSU had made a living off the three ball all game. But as the old saying goes “Live by the three, die by the three.”

With USC switching over to a 2-3 zone, Williams found the soft spot in the zone at the free throw line and hit the 15 footer to give the Cougs a six point lead with 5:43 to go. The Cougars seemingly couldn’t figure out how to beat the Trojan zone after this.

Chavez Goodwin brought USC back within four on a second chance opportunity. Flowers and Jakimovski both missed threes on the ensuing possession. Ellis knocked home a pair of free throws, Roberts missed a deep three, and Peterson hit a turnaround fadeaway to tie the game with 4:18 to go.

Jakimovski got one of two free throws to go to take the lead back and Roberts pushed WSU’s the lead to three with a crafty pullup midrange jumper with 2:35 to go. The lead was short lived as Max Agbonkpolo knocked down a game tying three on the next possession. WSU followed it up with back-to-back missed deep threes from Flowers and Roberts. The Cougars got another chance to tie it late, but Jackson couldn’t get the turnaround hook shot to fall, giving USC the final possession of the game with the shot clock turned off.

After a Trojan timeout, Ellis got the ball with the smaller Roberts guarding him. Ellis drove right, pulled up and hit the game-winning shot over Roberts with 0.2 seconds to go.

The Cougars lived by the three, scoring 45 of their 60 points off the three-ball, WSU died by the three, missing their final four three point attempts. Jakimovski missed three of four crucial free throw attempts in the final seven and a half minutes. It feels like a broken record: WSU rallied back, got hot, took a second half lead, but couldn’t seal the deal by knocking down the shots they need.

It’s been the story of the season and it happened again in arguably WSU’s last chance to pick up a resume building win.

The Cougars will look to snap the losing streak against the rival Washington Huskies on Wednesday night.