TUCSON, Arizona. A roar from the Washington State locker room echoed down the hallway under the McKale Center stands.
An understandable celebration after the Cougars just sent the Arizona fans out with their first road win over a top 5 opponent in 122 years of basketball.
Playing confidently in one of college basketball’s toughest outdoor arenas, Washington State ended Arizona’s No. 5 28-game home winning streak with a 74-61 win on Saturday.
“You’re no different from the players – you have to dream to make it come true,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said after his first three-run win at the McKale Center. “You start thinking about how to calm the crowd, and in your mind you start to have ball after ball. I looked up and saw that people were leaving with 1:12 left, and I thought, “Focus, focus, a lot can happen.” And we were able to survive.”
The Cougars (7-10, 2-4 Pac-12) stopped Arizona’s once powerful offense, creating a rare low-key atmosphere at the McKale Center.
Mohammed Gouyeh led Washington State’s indoor game with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Jabe Mullins (13 points), Justin Powell (12) and Dee Jay Rodman (11) scored 12 points out of 28 after the three-point arc.
Washington State took an 18-point lead midway through the second half, weathered Arizona’s late run, and played physical defense all day, ending the nation’s third-longest active winning streak.
“Our guys just came together, put in a huge effort, played really hard and played right up to the final siren,” Smith said after Washington State’s first win over a top-5 team since 1983.
The Wildcats (14-2, 3-2) struggled on offense for the third straight game, shooting 32% and 4-of-25 from the three-point arc. Arizona had the fewest halftime points (27) in two seasons under coach Tommy Lloyd and ran out of gas after a late 12-2 streak cut the Cougars’ lead to five.
Azulas Tubelis had 29 points and 14 rebounds for Arizona.
“McKale had a special day today, and it was for Washington State,” Lloyd said.
Once the highest scoring and best-shooting team in the country, the Wildcats defended and beat Arizona and Washington State while struggling on offense.
The Wildcats again struggled on offense and not much better on defense, allowing Washington State to score 7-of-15-of-3 in the first half. TJ Bamba’s 3 points at halftime put the Cougars to 37-27.
“It’s not confidence – we had a bad day and we missed,” said Tubelis.
Washington took it to 55-37 midway through the second half, throwing punches every time Arizona tried to run. The Wildcats finally got the crowd back on their feet with a 12-2 late draw to get close to 61-56, but that proved to be their last breath.
Bamba scored a contested layup due to 7’1 Oumar Ballo and then a short jumper to help Washington State extend the lead to double figures and the Wildcats fans to the exits.
“They were able to come up with a game plan that worked for them early on and they have a certain amount of conviction,” Lloyd said. “We hit an early hole and deserved the score we got.”
Washington State arrived in the desert as the highest scoring three-point Pac-12 shooting team. The Cougars were good from the arc again and played super defense to eliminate a team from the top 5 on the road for the first time.
Arizona needs to find a way to revive their crime again. Having once scored over 90 points in a game, the Wildcats have failed to eclipse 70 points in three straight games since the non-conference schedule ended. The AP Top 25 is expected to drop on Monday.
ON THE GUARD OF KRIIS
Kerr Criisa is the key to setting up the Arizona offense, so Smith decided to try to thwart him by appointing a taut Bamba as Arizona’s point guard.
It worked well for the Cougars. Criisa shot 3 of 13 – 2 of 11 of 3 – and limited himself to three passes.
“Usually you don’t have guys like that (defensive guards) and as a point guard you go, ‘Wow,'” Smith said. “I think, if anything, the physical force may have made them change the key because it kind of makes it go in the transition and half court.”
Washington State: hosts California on Wednesday.
Arizona: Playing in Oregon on Thursday.
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