Wazzu fails to get revenge in Utah

Every Coug blow was met with a Utah counter on Thursday



WSU guard Justin Powell dribbles the ball during an NCAA basketball game against Stanford, Jan. 14.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball (9-11, 4-5 Pac-12) traveled down south on Thursday to play Utah (13-7, 6-2 Pac-12). The Cougs were coming off a hot streak without leading scorer TJ Bamba, and this time the lack of that consistent scoring threat showed. The final score was 77-63. It was hardly ever much closer than that.

The reasons for this loss are simple. As with most losses, the other team shot better and connected more as a team. The Cougs’ hot streak was going to have to end eventually, but it is a shame that it came against a team they had already played. It is never fun to be swept in a season.

Mouhamed Gueye had 20, as he did last time against Utah, but he did not manage to stop Branden Carlson, who had a career-high 28 points on an incredible 91% shooting. Gueye did not match that efficiency, making six of his 15 attempts and making up the difference via eight made free throws in 10 attempts.

It is great to see Gueye getting more assertive with the ball in his hands. Hopefully, this added pressure from Bamba’s absence will result in noticeable improvements in efficiency for Gueye.

The only other Cougs in double digits were the usual leaders Jabe Mullins and Justin Powell, with 11 and 10, respectively. Both of them also struggled with efficiency in this one as Mullins shot an unusual 25% from three while Powell shot 36% from the floor.

It is hard to blame the Cougs fully for shooting poorly, as this is the second game against Utah this season and they shot horribly in the first one. Utah is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and it shows.

The first time this game felt like it might end up being close came in the closing minutes of the first half. The Cougs, having hovered around a double-digit deficit all half, managed to pull within a couple, and then pull even with Utah. With only a couple of minutes left it was tied, and then Utah went on a quick run of their own and the half ended 39-31.

Later, in the second half with 9:27 remaining in the game, Gueye made a shot to pull within five. That score of 53-48 was the closest it got for the rest of the game.

These signs of life were good, but Utah managed to silence them both times by going on immediate runs of their own. It felt like the Cougs used all they had to close the gap, and then they were out of gas for long enough to be put back out of the game.

A loss like this is tough, as it would have been nice to pull to .500 on the season. Looking forward, the Cougs get their next action against Colorado Sunday. Colorado is a good team, but probably not quite as good as Utah.

The Cougs will try to split the mountain schools at 3 p.m. Sunday in Colorado. Fans can watch on ESPNU or the ESPN app.