Cougars struggle in loss to Wildcats

Bonton led team with 21 points; Arizona went on a 26-0 run in second half to take down WSU



Sophomore Forward CJ Elleby looks for open teammate to pass to on Feb. 2 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball fell to the University of Arizona Wildcats 83-62 as the Wildcats scored 54 points in the second half alone Thursday night in Tucson, Arizona.

The Cougars (15-15, 6-11) leading scorer was junior guard Isaac Bonton with 21 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line. Bonton remains the only Cougar to score in double-digits points in each conference game he has played in this season.

Senior forward Jeff Pollard missed the game with a hand injury and was replaced by junior forward Tony Miller in the starting lineup. Miller, in his second career start for WSU, finished the game with six points and four rebounds.

WSU took a timeout three minutes into the game as Arizona (20-10, 10-7) led 9-0, six points coming from Arizona freshman forward Zeke Nnaji alone. Elleby scored WSU’s first basket 37 seconds later off a fadeaway mid-range jumper in the corner.

This basket started an 8-0 run for the Cougars that lasted over four minutes. Arizona ended its scoring drought with 12:20 left on the clock, just in time to maintain the lead over WSU.

A media timeout was called with a little over 11 minutes left in the half. Arizona remained in the lead 13-10, eight of the Wildcats’ points scored by Nnaji. Arizona followed up on the media timeout with a 6-4 run and extended the lead to 19-14 with 7:58 left in the half.

Despite scoring WSU’s first basket, Elleby missed his next three attempts from the field and did not make another field goal until 6:42 left on the clock off an assisted pass from freshman center Volodymyr Markovetskyy.

WSU finally tied the game at 27 with 2:34 left on the clock off a pair of made free throws from Bonton. WSU took its first lead of the game 47 seconds later, this time Miller made two free throws to lift the Cougars into the lead.

WSU managed to hold its first lead of the game up until the end of the first half. The Cougars led the Wildcats 31-29 as Bonton led the way for WSU with nine points, four of which came from the free throw line.

Elleby did not play in the final four and a half minutes of the first half as he picked up three fouls to start the game. He contributed six points of his own in the first half and shot three of eight from the field.

Elleby started the second half off with a 3-pointer 11 seconds into the half. WSU scored seven points in the beginning 80 seconds of the second half.

Arizona went on a 26-0 run after this point, WSU did not score again until 11 minutes left in the game. Arizona led for the rest of the game.

WSU lost its lead with 17:31 left on the clock off freshman guard Nico Mannion’s jumper in the paint. Arizona achieved its first double-lead of the game off a four-point play from freshman guard Josh Green.

Arizona pushed its lead to 20 points with 11:43 left on the clock, then Elleby ended Arizona’s run off a single made free throw with 11:05 left in the game. Bonton scored WSU’s next field goal with 9:20 left on the clock, the first Cougar field goal in almost 10 minutes.

The Wildcats held at least a 20-point lead over WSU for the final seven minutes of the game.

Elleby was benched for the remaining five and a half minutes of the game, and Bonton headed to the bench less than two minutes later. Elleby finished the game with 10 points, three more points than his performance against Arizona in the previous matchup.

Mannion was subbed out of the game in the final five minutes and Nnaji left the game in the final two minutes. They combined for 44 points against WSU, over 70 percent of the team’s total points.

As time expired, Arizona cruised to an 83-62 victory over WSU to finish the Wildcats’ series sweep over the Cougars.

WSU will face the Arizona State University Sun Devils at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona. The game will air on the Pac-12 Networks.