Cougars end non-conference slate on high note

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team came back to defeat the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff Golden Lions 65-50 Sunday at Beasley Coliseum to close out the Cougars’ non-conference schedule.

This win extends the Cougars’ (9-4) winning streak to six games, the longest active streak in the Pac-12, and this is the Golden Lions’ (1-11) sixth loss in a row.

Sophomore forward CJ Elleby led WSU in scoring with 22 points. Junior guard Isaac Bonton and senior forward Jeff Pollard added 16 and 11 points respectively.

Senior guard Jaylen Shead and junior forward Marvin Cannon were inactive for WSU. This was Cannon’s first game missed in his WSU career.

Once WSU scored its eighth point, it took WSU over four minutes to score again. During this drought, WSU gave up the lead by allowing a layup with 10:45 left in the half. This was the first time the Cougars trailed to their opponent since their matchup against New Mexico State University on Dec. 7.

WSU had another scoring drought once they reached 18 points; it took another five minutes for WSU to end the drought. At the half, WSU trailed to Pine-Bluff 28-26. This was the second time the Cougars have not led at halftime this season.

Bonton, Pollard and Elleby were the only Cougars to contribute to the scoreboard during the first half. Elleby scored 15 points for WSU at halftime, over half of the team’s total points. WSU shot 32.14 percent from the field in the first half, which is a new season low.

WSU gained a 33-32 lead after Bonton’s third 3-pointer of the game at 16:37 left in the game. Shortly afterwards, sophomore forward Aljaž Kunc and freshman guard Noah Williams scored to become the fourth and fifth cougars with points. Williams scored eight points off the bench on 50 percent shooting and added two blocks and two steals.

The Cougars achieved a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 44-37 with 11:45 left on the clock after an and-one basket from freshman guard DJ Rodman. A 12-2 run for WSU in the final five minutes gave them the winning edge over Pine-Bluff.

This is the first time the Cougars went undefeated in the month of December since the 2007-2008 season, a season in which they went to the Sweet 16 in the March Madness tournament.

WSU will begin conference play against the University of Southern California Trojans at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Beasley Coliseum, and the game will be aired on the Pac-12 Networks.