Tony Wroten (US PRESSWIRE)
PULLMAN - If this wasn’t the definition of “Couging it” I don’t know what is. After Tony Wroten made two free throws a minute and a half into the second half to put the Washington Huskies down one, UW went ice cold. With under 11 minutes left to play, Washington only had six points to show for the entire half.
The Cougars had taken advantage of the Husky meltdown to inflate the lead to 13 points, however an off night at the free throw line would prove costly.
That’s when C.J. Wilcox, who kept the Huskies in the game in the first half with four 3-pointers, started a furious Washington run off a lay-up on a beautiful Abdul Gaddy pass. With former Washington player Isaiah Thomas watching from behind the bench, the Dawgs ran off 10 points in 150 seconds and battled right down to the end before finally hanging on to the lead for good on a Gaddy lay-up with 2:17 remaining.
The Cougars had a chance to win the game and WSU Head Coach Ken Bone called on little used sophomore Patrick Simon to shoot a three for what would have been the go-ahead score with 13 seconds left. Having played only 10 total minutes during Washington State's last four games, Simon hoisted up an uncontested air-ball that fell right into the waiting arms of Wilcox, who sealed the 59-55 win for UW with two free throws - the 20th win of the season for the Huskies, and at the same time spoiling Senior Night for the cross-state rivals.
Washington State, the best free throw shooting team in the conference heading into Saturday's grudge match (.751), went 6-20 in the second half. The hardwood edition of the Apple Cup has been rugged and physical with tough defense ever since the Dick Bennett era. Tonight was no different as both teams shot under 36 percent for the game and WSU rocked UW on the boards 42-35. In their game earlier in the year in Seattle, UW dominated the Cougars in the paint with a 46-24 rebounding edge.
With points at a premium, Washington State left too many at the charity stripe, allowing the Huskies to steal the victory with defensive stops, only three turnovers the final 12 minutes of the game, and 15-19 shooting from the free throw line after intermission.
And Washington was able to do all this on the road with two of their big offensive weapons - Terrence Ross and Aziz N'diaye - saddled with foul difficulty. N'Diaye was bounced with his fifth foul with 4:35 remaining, having scored tallied seven points and seven rebounds. Ross only scored two points before fouling out with 81 seconds to go in what was his worst game of the season, but those two points were big ones; a slam off an assist from steady point guard Gaddy. That helped to catalyze an extended 22-7 run that ended with two Gaddy free throws to give UW a 54-52 lead with 3:43 left in the contest.
Tony Wroten was a catalyst all game for the Dawgs with his scrappy and hard-nose play. Even with an off-shooting night he still tallied 21 points, adding six rebounds and five assists to his totals. Wilcox had 16 and Gaddy 10 as the only other Huskies in double-figures. Motum, who was averaging 24 points his last seven games, had 17 to lead Washington State, while Marcus Capers added 14 for the Cougars.
With the win, Washington takes a half-game lead over California in the race to win the Pac-12 regular season title. The Golden Bears square off against Colorado in Boulder Sunday.
Points: Wroten 21, Wilcox 16, Gaddy 10, N’Diaye 7, Gant 3, Ross 2
Rebounds: Gant 7, N’Diaye 7, Wroten 6, Wilcox 5, Kemp 2, Seferian-Jenkins 2, Gaddy 1
Assists: Wroten 5, Gaddy 4, Ross 1
Steals: Gaddy 2, Wroten 2, Wilcox 1
Blocks: N’Diaye 1