WSU falls to Trojans

Cougars now prepare for Huskies on Monday



Noah Williams drives towards the net during the game against Utah on Jan. 21 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

The Cougars’ men’s basketball team fell short to the No. 20 USC Trojans on Saturday, losing the game 76-65. USC (17-3, 11-2) redshirt senior guard Tahj Eaddy and freshman forward Evan Mobley combined for 49 points.

The Cougars’ (12-9, 5-9) leading scorer tonight was freshman center Dishon Jackson, who put up a career-high 18 points. Jackson returned to the starting lineup against the Trojans after coming off the bench in WSU’s last game against UCLA. Jackson said his ankle injury feels perfectly fine after going to rehab for it leading up to this weekend.

Mobley and Jackson duked it out at the center position throughout the entire game. Jackson had 10 points at halftime while Mobley had just eight. However, Mobley also stuffed the stat sheet on defense with two blocks and two steals in the first half alone.

Mobley would finish the game with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Jackson said he has played against Mobley growing up in the California area, and he always looks forward to the challenge of facing him.

“He’s an NBA player, so I kind of expect him to come out and try as hard as he can,” Jackson said. “We’re a pretty even matchup.”

Unfortunate news for WSU fans, senior guard Isaac Bonton went down with a lower-body injury in the final minute of the game. Bonton had to be helped off by trainers and could not walk under his own power.

However, despite Bonton’s reaction, WSU head coach Kyle Smith said the injury is expected to be a pair of rolled ankles, which was caused by Bonton stepping on the court at a weird angle. Smith said Bonton may return for the Cougars’ next game on Monday.

“He’s tough, I think he’ll be back Monday,” Smith said. “He’s a little shook up, but he wants to play that game Monday.”

WSU had a slow start in the opening minutes against USC, while the Trojans, on the other hand, got the motor going on offense. USC’s Eaddy shot the lights out throughout the first half — he had 18 points at halftime.

The Cougars approached the Trojans’ lead a few times in the first half, but spontaneous runs on offense by USC kept WSU in catch up mode. As the Cougars went into halftime, the Trojans led 41-35.

In the second half, the Trojans picked up right where they left off, while the Cougars continued to play from behind. Bonton put together a productive second half alongside Jackson, but poor shooting performances from their teammates never gave WSU a chance to take the lead.

Jackson said the reason for WSU never being able to overtake the lead was a series of key turnovers down the stretch.

“That kind of propelled them to get that momentum and get that victory,” Jackson said.

USC finished out the game with ease while WSU went through foul trouble and inaccurate three-point shooting in the final minutes. Smith said he was impressed with his team’s effort in the second half to try and put together a comeback, but the dismal three-point shooting and lackluster perimeter defense was the difference-maker in the loss.

“We just weren’t able to make enough shots, and we weren’t able to defend Eaddy well enough,” Smith said. “Obviously he got loose, and that really helped them out.”

WSU won’t have much of a break between games, as the Cougars will host the Washington Huskies in the second leg of the 2021 Apple Cup Series at 5 p.m. on Monday at Beasley Coliseum. Fans will not be allowed to attend; however, the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.