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WSU Men's Basketball

No. 11 Baylor holds off Washington State in Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge

Washington State Cougars guard TJ Bama brings the ball up court against the Baylor Bears on Sunday in Dallas.  (Courtesy WSU Athletics)
From staff reports

DALLAS – The return of one of its top scorers gave Washington State’s men’s basketball team a boost Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 11th-ranked team in the country.

Baylor held off WSU late for a 65-59 victory at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, the fourth game of the day there in the Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Junior Jabe Mullins, who had missed the team’s last four games, led WSU with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Fellow juniors TJ Bamba and Justin Powell had 14 and 12 points, respectively.

WSU coach Kyle Smith said he hadn’t planned on playing Mullins as much as he did – 29 minutes, fourth-most on the team – but he was playing well.

“… Asking him after two weeks off, not practicing much, to chase those guys around was probably asking too much,” Smith said. “He gave us an opportunity. Every shot was big.”

After trading the lead a number of times early in the second half, Baylor took it for good on a pair of Keyonte George free throws with 10:32 remaining.

Those gave the Bears a 44-43 lead.

They briefly pushed their advantage to eight with 1:41 left, but then Bamba sank two free throws and Mouhamed Gueye’s steal led to a layup by Kymany Houinsou to pull WSU within four, 63-59, with 55 seconds left.

After Baylor missed the front of a 1-and-1, WSU got the ball back with 39 seconds left, but it took the Cougars 24 seconds to attempt a shot. That shot ended up being a Bamba stepback 3-pointer that came up short. Baylor then got fouled and iced the game with two free throws.

WSU (4-6 overall, 0-2 Pac-12) led by as many as six points in the first half but trailed 31-25 at halftime. Baylor’s lead never got to double-digits.

The freshman George led all scorers with 19 points for Baylor (8-2), which beat Gonzaga on Dec. 2, 64-63. The Cougars held the Bears nearly 20 points under their season-scoring average of 84.6, 12th-most in the country.

The Bears also came in ranked 10th nationally in made 3s per game (10.4) but made just 6 of 24 3-pointers against the Cougars. No WSU opponent this year has made more than nine 3s in a game.

“We had to make a concerted effort to limit their 3-point attempts,” Smith said. “… I imagine we did that. It kept us in the game.”

WSU finished 10 of 29 from 3-point range, the fourth time this year it has made at least that many. Powell hit 4 of 8 such attempts on Sunday; Mullins, who made 3 of 8 against the Bears, has now made 20 of 38 3-point attempts in six games.

The Cougars shot 40.4% from the field (21 of 52); the Bears made 23 of 50 shots (46%).

On Thursday, WSU will play George Washington (6-4) in its first game at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.