The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

6.8%: WSU finds lightning in bottle again

Jaylen Wells game leads Cougs to victory
Jaylen+Wells+high-points+the+ball+as+he+looks+to+make+a+play%2C+Jan.+13%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.+
COLE QUINN
Jaylen Wells high-points the ball as he looks to make a play, Jan. 13, in Pullman, Wash.

Jaylen Wells caught the ball with :26.5 on the clock, time ticking down, the Cougs were behind 74-71 in the most hostile environment in college basketball and 39 minutes into a tough and gritty back-and-forth game. With a defender rapidly closing in, Wells rose from the left corner and shot the ball. 

The No. 21 WSU men’s basketball (21-6, 12-4 Pac-12) went into Arizona’s (20-6, 11-4) house to play spoiler. The Wildcats were 13-0 in games on their home court in 2024 and since head coach Tommy Lloyd took over in 2021 as head honcho, they had just two losses on that court. 

One of those losses came from the Cougs; last season, the team upset Arizona early in the Pac-12 slate in what became an otherwise lackluster season. 

Different teams, different expectations and far different records storylined the 2024 matchup. The Cougs had just been ranked by AP for the first time since 2008 and had already beaten Lloyd’s team this season, albeit in Pullman. 

That’s probably why ESPN gave the Cougs a putrid 6.8% chance of winning the game prior to tip, expecting Arizona to run away with things and win by double-digits. 

Arizona had leads throughout the game and it never looked like either team truly had a run that may prove to break things open. It what has been a theme of the Cougs under their head coach, Kyle Smith, there remained the poise that got them to 20 wins so early in the season. 

“Since we’ve beat USC, we’ve got a way about us to just hang in there and keep chipping away,” Smith said. 

The players know they aren’t seen as the most talented group in the country, not even the most talented group in their own conference. Still, they have an unmatched chemistry and trust in one another to keep fighting, even if the other team metaphorically punches them in the mouth. 

Myles Rice, the freshman of all freshmen, struggled against Arizona. He shot 1-of-7 in the first half with just 2 points to show for it. In the second half, he kept his confidence, but the ball did not find nylon. Shooting 1-for-5, he had just 3 more points to finish the game with 5 points, four rebounds and a plus/minus of -1. 

Despite his struggles, again, the Cougs were never out of the game. 

“This is big. There were a lot of moments where we could have folded but we stayed poised and kept fighting back,” Wells said. “People were saying you got to play Arizona, now they got to play us.” 

Wells had the best game of anyone on the court, but he had his help. 

Rueben Chinyelu played 28 minutes, rightfully so, as there was no reason to take him off the court. He had 12 points, 11 rebounds and led the team with a plus/minus of +9. From his first time on the court to his last check-out, he played with an intensity and aura needed to keep the Cougs alive. 

Kymany Houinsou supplemented the struggling Rice with an 8-point, four-rebound effort in 20 minutes of action. The broadcast called him the “French Army Knife” thanks to the recommendation of Jim Crawford, WSU athletics assistant director, for his versatility on the floor and impressive ball skills. 

Still, not one player had the impact Wells did. In the “Jaylen Wells” game, he finished with 27 points, three rebounds and two assists. He shot 6-of-10 from three, constantly pulling up from deep to get the Cougs a bucket. 

“He’s in the gym so much. He probably has it as muscle memory,” Smith said.  

With the score tied 69-69 and with under 2:00 left, Wells got the ball with the shot clock winding down, fading at the elbow to bring the Cougs a 71-69 lead. If he got any space, it seemed like everything could go in for Wells. 

Still, the deciding play started with Rice taking a three at the well beyond the arc. Hitting the back of the rim, Andrej Jakimovksi managed to navigate through traffic to steal the ball away from Arizona, immediately finding Wells in the corner. 

Now back to that Wells three-pointer. 

“WELLS. HE HITS IT. AND HE GOT FOULED. FOUR POINT PLAY IN TUSCON. JAYLEN WELLS. TWENTY-FOUR POINT SIX LEFT. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? WITH A SMILE ON HIS FACE,”  Matt Chaznow said on the call.

In the game-deciding shot, Wells did not see the rim. He had no idea it went in at first. Either way, it’s the greatest regular season WSU MBB shot in their history

“I caught the ball, I shot it. I didn’t see the rim,” Wells said. 

For the second time in as many years, WSU beat Arizona on their home court, this time with a 77-74 score.

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About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.