ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Washington State Cougars squandered a 14-point lead in the second half, then watched Phil Martin make a driving layup with 13 seconds left that gave UC Riverside a 64-63 victory Sunday in the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center.
“We played careless,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “We did not play with the type of tenacity and toughness that we need to play with.”
Making the loss more significant is the fact that Riverside (2-4) has had only one winning season in the past decade.
“This is a marquee win for us,” Highlanders coach Jim Wooldridge said. “Obviously, it’s a program-builder for us. I think it helps put us on the map and it should build a tremendous sense of confidence.”
But WSU (2-4) took early control by taking a 13-3 lead in the first 4:15. The Cougars made their first five shots while keeping Riverside from grabbing any rebounds.
Faisal Aden led the surge with five points, two rebounds and an assist. Reggie Moore added four points and two rebounds.
But when WSU held a 56-42 advantage with 7:06 to play, the collapse began.
Martin scored nine points during a 14-0 blitz that forced a 56-56 tie with 3:52 remaining.
“We saw that they had holes in their defense,” Martin said. “We were getting the shots that we wanted so we figured we’d just keep moving the ball, spacing it out and hoping something positive would happen.”
For Bone, Riverside’s spree proved pivotal.
“I think that broke our spirit,” Bone said. “They had the momentum and they finished us off.”
Yet the Cougars still had opportunities. With the score tied at 60, Marcus Capers had a chance to put WSU ahead after being fouled but missed both free throws.
On Riverside’s resulting possession, Harrison Gaines picked up a loose ball and drove the right baseline for a running jumper as the shot clock expired. That basket put the Highlanders ahead 62-60 with 1:17 left.
DaVonte Lacy gave the Cougars a 63-62 lead after he made a steal, got fouled by Martin while making the lay-in and converted the ensuing free throw with 35.9 seconds to go.
After Martin’s driving lay-in with 14.1 seconds left, WSU had one more chance to win.
Moore took an 10-foot jumper in the lane with three seconds to play. But the ball hit the back of the rim. D.J. Shelton, then Aden, tried to secure the ball but it rolled out of bounds as time expired.
“We just played a soft game,” Bone said. “It’s hard to compete when you play that soft.”
WSU’s Brock Motum had game highs of 15 points and seven rebounds. Aden finished with 14 points and Moore added 10 points and five assists. Martin led Riverside with 14 points.
The Cougars return to Beasley Coliseum on Wednesday to play Grambling State at 5:30 p.m.