It was a sudden descent from the sublime to the ridiculous for the 18th-ranked Washington State Cougar men's basketball team. Leading by nine points with just under four minutes to play, Wazzu seemed destined to stay undefeated at home and on their way to their 18th win. But Oregon had other plans and the Ducks surged back to tie the game with under a second left in the game when Maarty Leunen hit two free throws and the Ducks staved off a late Cougar comeback in a 77-74 win in overtime before a near-sellout crowd of 11,092 at Beasley Coliseum, handing the Cougars their first home loss of the year. The loss drops Wazzu to 17-4 overall record and into a third-place tie with USC in the Pac-10.
Derrick Low's career high 37 points didn't matter. His 10 points in the overtime
period didn't matter. The Cougars seemed to be in control of the game after they built an nine-point lead with less than four minutes remaining in the game. But then the Ducks took over. Senior Aaron Brooks, who scored 31 points, hit a three followed by
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a three from 5-6 freshmen Tajuan Porter, cutting the Cougars lead to two
with just over a minute to play. After the Cougars had the ball back, Robbie Cowgill drove down the lane with 10 seconds left on the shot clock trying to draw contact to no avail, throwing up an air ball which was rebounded by the Ducks who promptly took it up court where the Ducks head coach Ernie Kent called timeout. The Ducks then dribbled the clock down to eight seconds where Bryce Taylor took a wild shot that hit off the side rim and was rebounded by Leunen who lost control of the ball to apparently end the game at 66-64. The police stormed the court along with Beasley security guard thinking the game was over until refs let the
crowd know the game was indeed not finished – television replays showed that Aron Baynes fouled Leunen with a half-second left in the game. Listening to one of the
loudest crowds in recent history at Beasley, Leunen, a 76% free throw shooter on the season, calmly stepped up and hit two free throws to tie the game and send it into overtime.
The overtime period was dominated as Brooks hit a pair of threes and Porter also had one of his own, as the Ducks scored the first 10 points of the period. Many Cougar fans and well wishers proceeded to leave the arena, but the Cougars, who already had Ivory Clark foul out, made a single man run with the poise of Low. Low took a three and was fouled, making all three free throws. He then hit two more three pointers in the overtime period, and suddenly the Cougars were only down by three points with 18
seconds left on the clock. After a timeout, the Cougars executed a full court press which the Ducks nearly broke as Leunen streaked down the court only to have the ball stripped away from behind by Low. Low dribbled down the court and found Weaver for a wide open look that rimmed off. The ball was rebounded by the Cougars and kicked out to Low who had a fadeaway look that fell short and out of bounds with five seconds to play. The Ducks in bounded the ball to Porter who was tied up by two Cougar defenders for a jump ball, with the arrow pointing the Cougars' way. With no timeouts, the Cougars had little time to call a play. A screen was set and Low found himself open for a three as time wound down but the ball just rimmed off, ending the Cougars' attempt at a miraculous comeback hopes and ending the game once and for all at 77-74 in favor of the Ducks.
Low finished 9-16 on the night from three point land, and the Cougars as a team finished 11-29 for .379%. The Ducks were 12-25 for 48%. The game was a close contest which went back and forth throughout the first half. Low started off hot scoring seven of the first 12 Cougar points, helping the Cougars build a 12-5 lead. Oregon then rallied
behind Brooks to take a 27-26 lead with two minutes remaining in the half. The Cougars went on a run of their own, scoring the final seven points of the period including another three pointer to take a 33-27 lead at the half. Only three minutes into the game, Kent was hit with a technical foul for arguing with the refs what he thought was a travel. The Cougars dominated the statistical categories in which they have dominated all year, only turning the ball over eight times as opposed to 19 Duck turnovers. The Cougars also had 14 steals and 10 blocks as opposed to the Ducks having four steals and only one block
Also joining Low in the double digit club were junior Kyle Weaver with 13 and sophomore Chris Matthews with 13. Weaver also led the Cougars in rebounding with seven boards. However, Wazzu also lost freshman Nikola Koprivica with a knee injury in the first half.
With the loss, Cougars will now go on the road to face the Arizona schools next week.
The Cougars next take on Arizona on Thursday, February 1 at 7:30pm in Tucson.
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