WSU sneaks past Colorado on Wednesday

After tough home loss against Huskies, Cougs pick up win over Buffs; Franks, Elleby, Cannon, Ali scored in double-digits



Freshman Forward CJ Elleby jumps over the CU defense as he shoots in the WSU vs. CU basketball game Feb. 20 at Beasley Coliseum.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

As Pac-12 Conference play winds down, each game becomes even more important as the WSU men’s basketball team looks to gain momentum heading into the Pac-12 Conference tournament. The Cougars were able to do this as they squeaked out a close 76-74 win over Colorado.

After the win, Head Coach Ernie Kent said he was proud of his team,  but said the team needs to continue to strive to improve.

“Colorado was the hottest team in the conference, winning five in a row is tough to do,” Kent said. “They had seniors with over 300 starts. I’ve got six guys who have been in Pullman for six months … We gotta stay grounded with the success and want more success.”

On a cold, snowy Wednesday night in Pullman, WSU knew they would need to get some hot shooting against Colorado. The start of the first half was very even between the Buffaloes and the Cougars, with either team able to build a sizeable lead over the opponent.

Every time it seemed as though one team would take the lead, the other team would take it back on the next possession.

The Buffaloes took a five-point lead with around seven minutes left in the first half, but the Cougars came storming back with just under a minute left to take a 36-33 lead on a three-pointer from senior forward Robert Franks.

The Cougars looked like they would have a 38-33 lead going into the half, but Colorado sophomore forward McKinley Wright IV hit a buzzer-beating three pointer from the half court line to cut the lead to 38-36 heading into halftime.

Franks was the leading scorer for WSU in the first half, putting up 11 points with three rebounds. However, the team shot 48 percent from the field in the first half, a number Kent would like to see be a bit higher.

The second half started out as an offensive fight between the two teams, as both teams kept trading multiple threes well beyond the three-point line. This put both teams at a 47 point tie with 16 minutes remaining in regulation.

The Buffaloes were able to take control of the game in the middle of the second half, going on a 7-0 run to put Colorado ahead 59-53.

WSU responded to this though by going on a 9-0 run putting them back on top by a score of 62-59 with eight minutes left.

Kent needed his players to step up to hold off the Buffaloes late. They did this, but Colorado was still able to take a one-point lead with two minutes left.

This did not stop junior forward Isaiah Wade from fighting hard on a rebound to score, putting his team back up by a point with just over a minute in the game.

The next minute was absolute pandemonium as both teams tried to get the elusive basket for their team. However, nothing went in until Wade made the first of his two free throws to put the Cougars up 76-74.

The Buffaloes had one last chance on an inbound with half a second remaining, but it would be to no avail as WSU was able to get their second conference home win of the season and split with the Buffs.

Freshman forward CJ Elleby thought Colorado brought a challenge but the Cougars’ mentality was too strong to beat.

“They are a really good team,” Elleby said. “They won five straight games going into tonight so it was tough for us to come in. We just battled all game and we never got down on ourselves.”

The Cougars were led in scoring by Franks with 19 points, followed closely by Elleby, who had a big second-half, leading to 18 points and eight rebounds.

With this win and a close loss against the Huskies last week, Kent believes the Washington road trip is becoming a tough trip for many teams.

“You no longer can come up to the Northwest and put all your attention on UW, you’ve gotta come over here and play now,” Kent said. “If we can continue with our environment and play well over here, this becomes a really tough road trip and gives us an opportunity to grow and have some home success.”

WSU now turns their attention to the Utah Utes, who they host at 5 p.m. on Saturday in Beasley Coliseum.