PULLMAN – It wasn’t a furious rally, but it was an effective one, although it ultimately came up a play short.
Trailing by 15 points with 17 minutes left, Washington State relentlessly clawed back against its old nemesis, UCLA. The Cougars tied the game with 5 minutes left, only to fall back by four again. They rallied once more, and had a chance to tie or win on the game’s final possession.
But Marcus Capers’ 3-pointer under duress as time ran down didn’t draw iron and the 13th-ranked Bruins survived 61-59 at Beasley Coliseum.
It was UCLA’s 16th consecutive men’s basketball win in Pullman, the Bruins’ ninth in a row overall over WSU.
Capers, a freshman who made his second start Thursday night, wasn’t the Cougars’ (11-7, 3-3 in Pac-10 play) first choice on the out-of-bounds play under their basket with 4.4 seconds left.
And it wasn’t WSU’s first chance.
The Bruins’ Darren Collison ruined that, getting a hand on Taylor Rochestie’s pass aimed at an open Klay Thompson with 4.6 seconds left. The deflection forced a reset, and the Cougars ran another out-of-bounds play.
Thompson was the first look again, coming off Caleb Forrest’s screen, but he wasn’t open. Neither was center Aron Baynes. But, unbeknownst to Rochestie, Forrest had come free right under the basket. Most of the 8,434 at Friel Court screamed, but to no avail.
Rochestie, who already had six assists, opted to throw the pass out to Capers, who had to attempt his first 3-pointer – and fifth of the year – as the clock ran out.
“We thought they would switch the out-of-bounds play and they did,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said of the final seconds. “Klay was really open, but the ball got deflected. … We changed it the second time and Caleb was open. Then we just had to bail out and had to take a desperation shot at the end.”
Forrest, a senior, finished with a career-high 19 points, hitting 8 of 9 shots.
“If you make your first couple, it just feels like it gets easier,” Forrest said of his career-best shooting night.
Forrest’s final five points climaxed an 11-0 second-half run that ended with his second 3-pointer – also a career high – tying the game at 53 with 5:12 left.
That was when Collison took over. The senior, who leads UCLA (15-3, 5-1) in scoring and has led them to three Final Fours, had been biding his time, content to let Nikola Dragovic, with a career-high 20 points featuring six first-half 3-pointers, pace the offense.
“I wasn’t forcing the issue, I wanted to take my time and see what I had,” said Collison, who had six assists, five in the first half as UCLA led 36-23.
But passing wasn’t an option late, as WSU switched screens, forcing the 6-foot Collison to attack with the game on the line. Three times in the final 5 minutes he drove against Baynes. Once he converted two free throws and twice he hit shots, the last from about 8 feet over the 6-10 Baynes and pumping the lead back to 59-55 with 2:41 left.
Baynes, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, countered Collison’s last hoop with an inside bucket before Alfred Aboya’s two free throws at 2:10 gave UCLA its final points.
Rochestie found Capers for a driving layup 70 seconds later. When Dragovic’s 3 came up short with 20 seconds left, WSU had a chance for its biggest upset of the year.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Every time we play Washington State it comes down to this. It comes down to tough possessions down the stretch.”
UCLA 61, WSU 59
|UCLA (15-3, 5-1)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .489, FT .600. 3-Point Goals: 9-16, .563 (Dragovic 6-10, Collison 0-2, Shipp 0-1, Holiday 1-1, Keefe 1-1, Roll 1-1). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 4 (Shipp, Holiday 2, Keefe). Turnovers: 4 (Shipp, Holiday 2, Gordon). Steals: 4 (Dragovic, Collison, Shipp, Keefe). Technical Fouls: None.
|Washington St (11-7, 3-3)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .479, FT .889. 3-Point Goals: 5-14, .357 (Forrest 2-2, Capers 0-1, Thompson 1-5, Rochestie 1-3, Koprivica 0-1, Lodwick 1-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (Thompson, Casto). Turnovers: 7 (Baynes, Capers, Thompson 2, Rochestie 2, Lodwick). Steals: 0. Technicals: None. Halftime–UCLA 36, WSU 23. A–8,434.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.