PULLMAN – Shorthanded Washington State fought through early shooting struggles and controlled a slim lead throughout the second half, but the Cougars committed costly mistakes down the stretch in regulation and and couldn’t complete an overtime rally in a dramatic Pac-12 men’s basketball tilt.
Utah held on for a 67-65 win Sunday in a back-and-forth contest at Beasley Coliseum.
“We had a chance to win,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “That was just disappointing. We had some mental errors there that gave that one away.
“We played a good second half. I’m proud of our effort, but our execution wasn’t good in the last two minutes of regulation. We had some chances, did a good job to battle back and gave (ourselves) a chance to win in overtime, but we fell short. This one will hurt.”
The Utes (7-2, 2-0 Pac-12) trailed 59-56 with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. Utah guard Marco Anthony charged into the paint, drew a foul and converted a traditional three-point play to send the game into overtime.
“(Anthony) got downhill and just took a layup. That’s what we wanted them to do,” Smith said. “But (TJ Bamba) just swung down, fouled him. Just a mental error on his part.
“They took a layup. I was thrilled. It was gonna be six seconds, up one and we’d have to inbound it and play the free-throw game from there. … (The Utes) took the bait. Or, maybe we took the bait.”
WSU (3-4, 0-2) erased a six-point deficit in overtime. Guard Justin Powell buried a 3-pointer and forward DJ Rodman was fouled on a 3-point try, then sank all three free throws. Utah guard Rollie Worster got to the foul line with 25 seconds left and hit both free throws. The Cougars missed two contested attempts at the rim just before the final buzzer sounded.
The Cougars played the extra period without their two top scorers: Bamba fouled out on Anthony’s layup attempt and post Mouhamed Gueye was tagged for a fifth foul with about four minutes to go in the second half.
“We just gotta keep them in the game,” Smith said. “Can’t foul out.”
Gueye scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. He shot 8 of 14 from the field and snagged 11 rebounds but committed six turnovers.
Bamba came alive in the second half after a slow start and totaled 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting to go with eight rebounds.
Guard Jabe Mullins (knee), forward Andrej Jakimovski (foot) and backup center Adrame Diongue (illness) missed the game.
The Cougars had eight scholarship players available.
“But no one is going to feel sorry for us,” Smith said. “We had a great opportunity to win that game.”
WSU trailed by as many as nine points (19-10) midway through the first half, and the Utes led for the last 12 minutes of the opening period. WSU shot poorly, going eight straight minutes without a field goal during one stretch, but stayed within striking distance behind Gueye’s effort and Utah turnovers.
“We guarded (well),” Smith said.
The teams traded the lead seven times in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Bamba scored seven quick points to put the momentum on WSU’s side.
The Cougars led for most of the second half – they were up by six points with three minutes remaining – before Anthony’s overtime-forcing and-1.
WSU shot 22 of 68 (32.4%) from the field and 4 of 30 (13.3%) from 3-point range.
“Shooting was the main (issue) for us,” said Rodman, who contributed five points, eight boards and three steals but shot 0 of 7 from the floor.
Powell tacked on 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
“We’re a little shorthanded right now, and he’s playing extended minutes,” Smith said of Powell, who had a similarly inefficient scoring night Thursday in WSU’s loss at Oregon. “It’s real pressure. He’ll get better at it, but there’s just a lot on his plate right now and he’s gotta power through it. We gotta get some guys healthy, but we can’t count on that .”
Smith said the Cougars will play without Mullins and Jakimovski when the team hosts Northern Kentucky at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The Utes hit 41.8% of their field-goal attempts and went 7 of 14 from downtown but committed 19 turnovers.
The Cougars scored 24 points off takeaways.
Worster tallied a team-high 19 points for Utah, which has won three straight games, including an upset over No. 4 Arizona on Thursday.
Foul calls slowed the pace of the game for long stretches. The teams were tagged with a combined 42 fouls and totaled 49 free-throw attempts
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com.
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