Cougars fall at No. 3 UCLA, face Colorado on Wednesday


WSU surrendered a second half lead to the Bruins with under 10 minutes to go in route to a 77-68 defeat. The Cougars take on Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The WSU men’s basketball team wore out again in the game’s last 10 minutes despite giving the nation’s third-ranked squad all it could handle on senior night.

The Cougars (13-17, 6-12) led until around nine minutes left in the game, when the Bruins exploded for a 14-0 run, turning a one-point WSU lead into a 13-point deficit on their way to a 77-68 win.

UCLA (28-3, 15-3) played without its leading scorer, freshman forward T.J. Leaf, who nurses a sprained ankle suffered in the team’s win over Washington on Mar. 8, helping the Cougars keep the Bruins’ high-powered offense in check throughout the game.

“We got a little stagnant offensively,” UCLA Head Coach Steve Alford said. “It was our first time all season playing without TJ which is very different.”

The Bruins lead the country in scoring, averaging 91 points per game, but WSU held them to under 45 percent shooting from the court and limited senior guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton from deep, the two sharpshooters shot just 27 percent (3-11) behind the arc.

However, UCLA’s Wooden Award finalist, freshman guard Lonzo Ball, powered the Bruins’ offense past the Cougars with 12 points, 14 assists, five boards and three steals.

“He competes in everything he does,” Alford said. “He’s the type of guy to beat you by doing the other things like defense, rebounding and passing.”

WSU used a balanced scoring attack in the first half to keep pace with the Bruins, as no player scored in double figures through the first 20 minutes, and the Bruins took a slim 35-34 lead into the break.

Coming out of the half, the Cougars took their first lead of the game at the 14-minute mark of the second half, and the two teams traded baskets for the next five minutes.

With 9:03 remaining, Alford nailed a 3-pointer to put the Bruins ahead for good at 53-51 to spark their 14-0 scoring run. WSU turned the ball over during their ensuing offensive possession, leading to a two-handed slam-dunk by UCLA freshman forward Ike Anibogu to stall their offensive momentum.

Senior guard Charles Callison ended the night with a game-high 25 points for the Cougars to go with five assists, while senior forward Josh Hawkinson pitched in another double-double to add to his program record. It, however, was not enough to overcome a near five-minute scoring drought during the Bruins run.

The Cougars’ loss in their regular season finale earned them the 10-seed in this week’s Pac-12 Tournament and a rubber match with the seventh-seeded Colorado Buffaloes on Wednesday.

“[The Buffaloes] have very good character as a team,” WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent said.

WSU split the regular season series with Colorado, recording a hard-fought 91-89 win at home on Jan. 21 and suffering an offensive meltdown three weeks later in an 81-49 loss on Feb. 12 in Boulder. Colorado senior guard Derrick White was a problem in both games for the Cougars, scoring 25 and 23 points respectively in the two meetings.

Colorado enters Wednesday’s matchup having won five of its last seven games and upending a California team sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble on Saturday.

The winner of Wednesday’s game moves on to face No. 7 Arizona in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Tipoff for Wednesday’s game is set for 6 p.m at T-Mobile Arena. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.