PULLMAN – It was the predominant question beforehand: With Washington State’s Isaac Bonton and Washington’s Quade Green unavailable for Monday’s game between the Cougars and Huskies, which player(s) would carry the baton?
Early on, Marcus Tsohonis threw his name in the ring for the Huskies, scoring a flurry of points that gave the visitors a decisive halftime lead, and with the clock winding down at the end of the second half, the backup guard lifted UW again when the occasion called for it.
Tsohonis, who started for just the second time this season, hit a go-ahead floater with 2.5 seconds left and Noah Williams, a former Seattle Rotary AAU teammate of UW’s sophomore guard, was unable to hit a desperation shot for WSU as the buzzer sounded, allowing the Huskies to leave Beasley Coliseum with a 65-63 win.
It marked the end of a three-game Apple Cup losing streak for UW, which beat WSU for the first time since 2018-19 – Ernie Kent’s last season as the coach in Pullman. The Cougars (12-10, 5-10) now need to go at least 2-2 in their final four games – against California, Stanford, Arizona and Arizona State – to secure their first regular-season winning record since 2010-11.
Tsohonis, a Portland native, was the first and last player to score in Monday’s game, but he did plenty of damage in between, pouring in 29 points on 13 of 20 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. The UW backup hit a new career high without attempting a single free throw.
“He’s a human heat check,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said of Tsohnois. “He’s really slithery, he’s hard to get physical with, he doesn’t really get contact and he can just really score. They’ve got a few of those and without Quade Green out there, they needed somebody else to step up and he did. He’s a guy, you don’t want him to make his first shot, I assure you that. He did and he just kept it going.”
Less than two minutes into the game, Tsohonis converted a second-chance layup off a WSU turnover, allowing UW to take a lead that would hold until the 8:54 mark of the second half. The Cougars went on a four-minute, 19-second scoring drought to open the game and committed four turnovers before getting their first shot to fall.
Without Bonton to steady the ship, the Cougars committed 13 turnovers in the first half and even after addressing the issue at halftime, WSU finished with a season-high 19 turnovers.
“We just weren’t getting very good possessions,” Smith said. “Weren’t getting the ball inside. Credit to them, they changed the way they guard a little bit from the first time we played them. I thought we took some bad shots in that stretch, some turnovers, some unforced turnovers. We just never really settled in first half.”
A team that had lost five consecutive entering Monday’s rivalry game, UW led by as many as 14 points, but left the door open in the second half, going scoreless for more than eight minutes and allowing WSU to take its first lead on Jaz Kunc’s stepback jumper.
The Huskies led by as many as six points down the stretch, but Kunc hit a crucial 3-pointer from the top of the key to close the deficit to one point with 1:25 to play. Inside the final 20 seconds, UW’s Jamal Bey made one of two free throws for a two-point Huskies lead, but Williams went the length of the floor to tie it at 63-63.
With Williams guarding, Tsohonis dribbled through his legs and around the WSU guard on the final UW possession, then released a 10-footer with his right hand, watching the ball fall through the net with 2.5 seconds left.
“I’ll take Noah in a game-winning situation, I’ll take him to make a good play,” Smith said. “Tsohonis had to do it over one of our best competitors.”
Kunc was WSU’s scoring leader with 14 points off the bench, while Dishon Jackson tacked on 13 and Williams had 12.
Smith didn’t have an update on Bonton’s status and gave no hints as to whether the Pac-12’s fourth-leading scorer would be available for Thursday’s home game against Cal.
“I don’t know, you’d have to talk to our trainer. I don’t know,” said Smith, who raised his hands as if to pray. “I’d like to have him back. We need all the guard depth we can handle.”
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