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

Cougs get over tough start, trounce Bruins

Wells stars again as WSU ties conference win record
Jaylen Wells shoots a corner three, March 2, in Pullman, Wash.

No. 19 WSU men’s basketball (23-7, 14-5 Pac-12) beat UCLA (14-15, 9-9 Pac-12), shaking off a brutal start to eventually win by a score of 77-65. Jaylen Wells scored 27 points, tying his career-high for the second time in two weeks.

Myles Rice hangs on the rim after dunking a breakaway, March 2, in Pullman, Wash.

UCLA jumped out early, building a lead as high as 19-6 before Myles Rice and Wells stopped the bleeding with a layup and a 3-pointer respectively. The Bruins still managed to hold a decent lead late into the half, but an 8-0 Cougar run tied the game at 28-28 with three minutes left in the half.

That was extended into a 20-4 run over the closing minutes, capped off with two made 3-pointers by Wells and Isaiah Watts in the last 44 seconds.

With a start like that, there was reason to be bearish, but the Cougs had bulled back in the closing minutes and took a 40-32 lead into the break.

UCLA was shooting great from 3-point range, making exactly 50% of its attempts, but they were under that mark from the field at only 46.4 percent. WSU was struggling to make shots for much of the half, and despite the impressive close, they were still shooting under 40% from the field.

WSU forward Jaylen Wells jumps for a shot during an NCAA men’s basketball game against UCLA, March 2, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Leading the Cougs in scoring was Wells, who had 14 points. He was followed closely by Rice who had 13 along with two offensive rebounds and two assists.

Defensively, it was all about Rueben Chinyelu. He had three blocks in the first half, getting him to 40 on the season and giving him the Cougar freshman record for blocks in a season.

UCLA started the second half fast, and two makes in the first minute got the Bruins within three quickly. Chinyelu responded, being fouled inside twice and making two of his four resulting free throws.

A WSU student holds up a sign reading “we want UConn” during an NCAA men’s basketball game against UCLA, March 2, 2024, in Pullman, Wash.

Not to be locked out that easy, UCLA center Adem Bona slammed two dunks in a row to cut the lead to just one. Wells made a shot on the other end, but Bona went right back at it and drew a foul. While he missed both his free throws, the ball was rebounded by a Bruin and laid in immediately.

The back-and-forth continued for much of the period. UCLA stayed white-hot, still sitting at 55% from 3-point range when they took the lead with just under 12 minutes left.

Not to be down for long, Andrej Jakimovsi hit a pull-up 3-pointer for his first points of the game on the next possession. The Cougs were shooting almost 20% worse from outside, but they were staying in it in other ways.

Still, the brawl continued. UCLA took the lead for another four minutes before Will McClendon was whistled for a flagrant after hitting Isaac Jones in the crotch. Jones understandably missed both free throws, but the Cougs kept the ball due to the foul being flagrant.

Wells tied the game up with a 3-pointer off the inbounds, and the Cougs started to slide into the lead. Jakimovski drained another 3-pointer to push the Cougar lead to five with five minutes left in the game. 

The Bruins drew a foul on the other end to take it right back down to three. Six unanswered by the Cougs put the lead at nine, surpassing their halftime lead for the first time.

Bona finally fouled out with under four minutes left, but so did Watts on the other end of the floor. Without their best player, UCLA stood little chance of coming back. The final minutes saw WSU grow the lead even further, finishing up 12 points.

Myles Rice and Isaiah Watts shrug after taking down UCLA, March 2, in Pullman, Wash.

The final score was 77-65. Wells led the team in scoring. He set his career-high against Arizona last week with 27 points, and now just three games later he has matched that total again. He shot 10 free throws and made all of them, including several down the stretch to help seal the win.

Rice had a bit of a return to form after some rough games for him, scoring 18 points and dishing out four assists. He and Wells each sat for only 43 seconds of the game, playing 39:17 including the entire second half for both.

“It’s hard to take them out. It’s simple math,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “I don’t know, I think you’re supposed to rest your point guard, but…”

Despite fouling out, Watts led the team in box +/- with a +20, an impressive number in a 12-point win. His teammates spoke about his effort and impact on the game.

“He brings energy, every time,” Wells said. “He knows how to win, and he knows how to not lose.”

“That’s a fact,” Rice said in agreement. “Just watch the game. Whether he’s playing or not playing, he’s going to have the energy no matter what.”

This win is number 14 for the Cougs, tied for their most conference wins in program history. There is one game left in the season, one final chance to make history. Of course, as always, it is the Apple Cup. Who better to make history against?

The Cougs attempt to sweep the Apple Cup and end the season strong against UW at 6 p.m. Thursday. Fans can watch on FS1.

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About the Contributors
HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor
Hayden Stinchfield is a senior in Criminology from Washougal, WA. He is considered by some experts to be the greatest to ever spot birds. Hayden began working at the Evergreen in fall 2022, and became Sports Co-Editor in summer 2023.
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.
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.