Washington State stuns Arizona at McKale, claims Pac-12 first place spot

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On an atmospheric stage at McKale Center in which Arizona could have taken a commanding lead in the Pac-12 race, the Wildcats instead handed over first place to the team that was picked to finish 10th.

Washington State handed Arizona its first loss at McKale this season, 77-74, when Caleb Love scored 27 points but was forced to throw up an errant shot from nearly halfcourt as time expired.

The loss dropped Arizona to 20-6 overall and 11-4, putting the Wildcats a half-game behind the Cougars (21-6 and 12-4). While the teams are tied in the loss column, WSU will own the tiebreaker between them because the Cougars also beat Arizona on Jan. 13 in Pullman.

The Cougars, sweeping the season series against the Wildcats, played with a poise throughout a game that was played mostly within two possessions. 

With the game headed into the final minute tied at 71, the Wildcats’ defense forced WSU’s Jaylen Wells to throw up an errant 3-pointer. After Oumar Ballo pulled down the rebound, Love drove inside for a layup and drew a foul.

Love hit the ensuing and-one to make it 74-71 but, after Myles Rice missed a 3-pointer, Wells hit a fadeaway 3 from the left corner as he was fouled by Johnson.

The 3-pointer tied the game at 74 with 24.6 seconds left and prompted UA to call a timeout, after which Wells hit the free throw to give WSU a 75-74 lead.

On UA’s ensuing possession, Jones swatted away a shot inside from Love with 9.3 seconds left, but the ball went out of bounds and Arizona regained possession. Jaden Bradley then inbounded to Keshad Johnson, who passed to Love – but Love slipped as he drove to the basket and turned the ball over. WSU then inbounded to Wells, who was fouled and hit both free throws to give WSU a 77-74 lead.

While Wells went ot the line, one of the glo-sticks went onto the court and the fans were warned that throwing items on the court could result in a technical foul, an announcement that was met with boos.

After Wells’ shots, the Wildcats had 2.4 seconds to get a shot off. Kylan Boswell passed to Love along the sideline inside the halfcourt line but his last second 45-footer missed.

Wells finished with 27 points to lead the Cougars, who shot just 41.9% but had only nine turnovers and were outrebounded by only one. Arizona shot 44.8% but was just 5 of 18 from 3-point range and made just 17 of 27 free throws.

Arizona held a one-point lead with 2:39 to go but Wells hit a fadeaway 15-footer late in the shot clock to give WSU a 71-69 lead with 1:56 left before Johnson tied it at 71 with a short jumper from the left baseline with 91 seconds left.

Trailign 34-33 at halftime, Arizona used defense to set up two alley-oop dunks from Johnson to take a 43-39 lead three minutes into the second half.

Ballo first blocked a shot from Isaac Jones, leading to an alley-oop pass from Love to Johnson for a dunk that tied it at 38. Later, Johnson set up his own dunk, blocking Jones, which led to another alley-oop pass…

Read More: Washington State stuns Arizona at McKale, claims Pac-12 first place spot 2024-02-24 14:43:45

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