It was the epitome of a nearly perfect half – in both directions – in Tempe. The 17th-ranked Washington State University Cougars had a nearly perfect first half, then followed up with a perfectly awful second half – going more than 11 scoreless minutes before holding off conference winless Arizona State for the 48-47 win that moves them to 19-4 overall and remaining in a second-place tie with USC at 8-3 in the Pac-10.
The Cougars only scored 48 points but sophomore Daven Harmeling scored a third of them as he led WSU with 16 points. Junior Derrick Low was the only other player in double figures with 10 points as the Cougars went without three players scoring in double figures for the first time since their conference-opening loss to UCLA. Senior Ivory Clark, who led the Cougars with 18 points in the earlier win over Arizona, only scored two this time but led the Cougars in rebounding with eight boards.
It was the first series sweep of the Sun Devils in three years and it looked like it was going to come the easy way in the first half. Wazzu started slowly – going down 10-5 to Arizona State – but then reeled off 11 straight points to take a 16-10 lead. The Cougars hit seven of their first eight shots and gradually grew the lead to 16 points at 34-18 before allowing ASU to scrap back into a 12-point deficit at halftime at 36-24. The Cougars wound up shooting a blistering 63% for the first half.
But as well as they shot in the first half, they shot just as poorly in the second half. Harmeling hit a three-pointer and was fouled on the Cougars' first possession of the second half. The four point play gave Wazzu a 40-24 lead and represented the only trey they would make in the half. WSU then proceeded to go scoreless on 21 of their next 24 possessions as ASU steadily climbed back into the game. At one point, the Cougars went 16 consecutive possessions over an 11-minute span without scoring a single point.
Robbie Cowgill finally made a runner to break the drought but WSU could not manage to put the game away as Kyle Weaver missed the front end of a one-and-one that gave the Sun Devils life. But WSU appeared to clinch the game with 15.5 seconds left as Low grabbed a rebound after a Sun Devil miss and was intentionally fouled. Low hit both free throws to give Wazzu a 48-44 lead when Sun Devil freshman Christian Polk hit a three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining. All that was left was for the Cougars to inbound the ball and either get fouled or run the clock out but Low fumbled the inbounds pass from Weaver and turned it over to ASU with 1.3 seconds left. A desperation trey by Polk just missed and the Cougars escaped with the win.
With the victory, the Cougars are now in a second-place tie with USC and will likely see their RPI rise after the sweep in the state of Arizona.
The Cougars next take on Stanford on Thursday, February 8 at 7pm at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman.
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