Trojans narrowly defeat Cougs

Despite two late opportunities, WSU falls to No. 20 USC at home



The WSU basketball team celebrates a basket near the end of a tight college basketball game against the University of California at Beasley Coliseum, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Pullman, Wash.

TOM ABBOTT, Evergreen sports editor

The Cougar men’s basketball team (6-2) came up just short against No. 20 USC (8-0) on Saturday, losing the evenly matched game 63-61.

The Cougs were up 61-60 with just 35 seconds left on the clock. WSU’s TJ Bamba put the Cougs in the lead with a clutch three-point shot. 

“I was just juiced up, you know, it was a big play,” Bamba said. “During that time of the game, we were going back and forth and we just needed a big play on offense and a big play on defense. I provided that play on offense.”

WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) dunks the ball during a college basketball game against the University of Southern California at Beasley Coliseum, Saturday in Pullman.

USC answered right back with a made jump shot from Chevez Goodwin to take back the lead, 62-61. With six seconds left on the clock, WSU looked to Noah Williams to close out the game. In his last two opportunities, Williams went 0-2. 

USC maintained their lead with a made free-throw from Goodwin. The Trojans went on to win 63-61 due to Goodwin’s ability to perform under pressure.

“He’s made a lot of big ones like in the Stanford game at home and just wasn’t fortunate tonight to get that one to drop,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said about Williams’ final shots.

Williams finished the game with 12 points but struggled to capitalize on his shot opportunities. Overall, Williams went 4-14 from the court and turned the ball over three times.

The Trojans were the first nationally-ranked opponent this year to play WSU. The Cougars showed they were up to the challenge by taking smart shots and playing lockdown defense. 

So far this season, USC runs their offense mainly through close-range shot opportunities and continued that trend against the Cougs. The Trojans shot 50 percent from the court to take the win away from the Cougars. On the other side of the court, WSU shot a measly 38 percent from the court.

Because of USC’s pressure close to the basket, the Cougs opted for three-point shots more than in previous games this season. From behind the arc, WSU went 8-20 which helped maintain a close game.

WSU guard Myles Rice consoles teammate Noah Williams (24) after losing to the University of Southern California 61-63 at Beasley Coliseum, Saturday in Pullman.

Michael Flowers showed up in a big way from three-point range, responsible for three made threes in five attempts. Flowers’ highlight of the game came about half way through the second half. Flowers was positioned just behind the free-throw line and used his quick handles to shake off a USC defender. Flowers took the opportunity to try a step-back three and swished the ball through the net. Flowers finished the game with 13 points, leading the team.

Goodwin and Drew Peterson led the Trojans’ offense, putting up 14 points and 13 points respectively. Goodwin led the offense inside the paint, responsible for six made buckets and three offensive rebounds. Peterson followed suit with five baskets from two-point range and two offensive rebounds.

Defense was the name of the game as both teams forced the other to take poor shots. Overall, USC went 2-12 from three-point range due to the pressure put on by WSU guards on the perimeter. WSU shot better from distance but struggled inside due to USC’s close-and-personal style of defense. 

Multiple players for WSU played with heart in front of a packed home crowd in Beasley Coliseum. The players showed their willingness to compete by jumping on loose balls and not being afraid to force charge penalties.

WSU guard Noah Williams (24) dribbles the ball toward the basket during a college basketball game against the University of Southern California at Beasley Coliseum, Saturday in Pullman.

One of the players who showed their grit was Bamba. He has been a consistent defensive asset for the Cougs so far this season and Saturday’s game was no exception. At one point, Bamba chose to stand in front of a quickly approaching Trojan forward to force a charge and did so, falling to the court as the USC player drove towards the basket. Bamba ended the game going 3-3 from three-point range, but ran into foul trouble which prevented him from playing aggressive defense late in the game.

“He had a really, really big-time game I felt,” Smith said. “It was good to see him compete out there.”

WSU (6-2) returns to non-conference play this week, hosting Weber State (8-0) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Beasley Coliseum.