PULLMAN, Wash. — Few spectators braved the elements to watch Washington State host Stanford at Beasley Coliseum on Thursday – just 3,119 of them, to be exact.
Faisal Aden showed up, though.
The senior guard scored a career-high 33 points – 23 of them during a second-half onslaught that allowed the Cougars to overcome a 13-point deficit – to lead WSU to its first Pac-12 win since Dec. 29, an 81-69 upset over the conference-leading Cardinal.
“That’s what we saw when we recruited him,” coach Ken Bone said.
Aden had struggled to find his shot after missing three games earlier this season with a concussion, but he looked plenty comfortable on Thursday, even after Stanford (15-4, 5-2 Pac-12) began the second half with a 13-2 run to take a 42-29 lead.
A couple of buckets by Brock Motum trimmed the lead to eight, but Stanford went back ahead 49-39 on an and-one by center Josh Owens, who made all eight of his field-goal attempts and finished with 19 points.
And as it turned out, that was a memorable bucket for Stanford. Because the Cardinal didn’t make another field goal until a John Gage 3-pointer with 4:59 left in the game, at which point the Cougars led 65-59 and were in total control.
The game turned, then, in the 8 minutes between those two Stanford field goals. Much of that was the doing of Aden, who scored 16 of the team’s 22 points from the 10:48 mark until the Cougars led 71-61 with 2:30 remaining.
Aden’s 33 points came in just about every form – except, surprisingly, from 3-point range, where he was 0-3. But he made layups, jumpers and free throws – all 13 that he attempted, part of an effort that saw WSU shoot 27-29 from the line.
“A lot of people don’t know that’s really my strength,” Aden said of his slashing ability. “I’ve been really just settling for shots, which isn’t my full repertoire.”
The Cougars (10-8, 2-4 Pac-12) made 16 of their 22 second-half shots for a jaw-dropping 72.7 field goal percentage. It started by finding Motum a couple times for easy buckets near the rim, and ended with Aden pouring in bucket after bucket against a helpless Cardinal defense.
The game’s turning point came with a little more than eight minutes left in the game, when DaVonte Lacy and Reggie Moore made back-to-back 3-pointers – Lacy’s the result of an offensive rebound – to give WSU a 61-55 lead and get the sparse crowd into it.
WSU also did a fine job of limiting Owens’ touches in the second half. He made all three of the shots he attempted, but Bone said the Cougars were able to front him a little better, using their 3-2 zone to force Stanford into taking outside shots.
They weren’t good at it. The Cardinal made just 8 of 33 3-point attempts, part of why WSU was able to rip off a 24-5 run midway through the second half and never look back.
“Once we got stops on defense, we were able to push the ball,” Motum said. “… Once we established ourselves on defense, that sort of frustrated them and I think that complemented our offense.”
The Cougars’ 54 second-half points were the most they’ve scored in a half this season, and came after they made just four of their final 19 shots of the first half.
They host first-place California on Saturday.
“They’ll be a really tough team,” said Motum, who finished with 16 points. “But playing them at home, I think we can play with anyone in the conference.”