Nail-biter in the Palouse

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Nail-biter in the Palouse

Steven Moore, Sports Statistician

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The Washington State men’s basketball team pulled off an impressive 69-67 victory against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Wednesday night, January 30. The triumphant win was led by the Cougars’ star CJ Elleby and backed up with solid play by guards Noah Williams, freshman out of local Odea High School and Isaac Bonton, a transfer from Montana State. The Sun Devils were in a letdown spot coming into Pullman after their big win at home against cross state rival Arizona. Arizona State guard Remy Martin was averaging twenty plus points in Pac 12 play, with 29 against Oregon and 25 against Colorado, who are two powerhouse schools in the Pac. The Cougars were able to hold Martin to 12 points and he turned the ball over five times.

An overall outstanding defensive performance by the Cougars was propelled by four steals in the first half by Noah Williams, four steals from Jervae Robinson and four from Isaac Bonton. Although the Cougs caused 21 turnovers by ASU, they produced 19 of their own. This was truly the only reason the Sun Devils were able to stay in the game, considering WSU was in control for majority of the game, getting their lead margin up to 15 at one point in the second half. Arizona State’s 6’8 physical center Romello White carried the load for Arizona State with 15 points, going 6/10 from the field. He was also able to snag 11 rebounds and rack up 4 assists in 36 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Washington State’s center Jeff Pollard did not have one of his better games, but in the end, he was able to get the job done down low for the Cougs. Pollard finished 3/7 shooting with eight points, two rebounds and one block. Bench efforts from freshman guard DJ Rodman and the seven-foot Ukranian freshman Vladimir Markovetsky allowed breaks for some of the Cougar’s starters, considering they all played 30 plus minutes.

The intensity in the game was sparked by a ferocious dunk thrown down by Cougar guard Noah Williams with two minutes and forty-seven seconds remaining in the first half, advancing the Cougar lead to nine and the student section was electrified. As the game continued to the second half, Arizona State figured out a way to run the Cougs off the perimeter and force the ball inside, allowing them to chip away at the deficit they were facing. With ten seconds remaining in the contest, the Sun Devils had the lead which only lasted for another eight seconds when CJ Elleby hit a game winning step-back, three-point jump shot to seal the first game of the desert homestand. It was clear to tell by fans that Beasly Coliseum is now becoming a tougher place to play in the better the Cougs start to play. The “Nerd Ball” style of play introduced by first year head coach Kyle Smith is finally taking a very below average Cougar team in previous years and moving them up in the Pac 12 standings. Washington State will now go on to play Arizona on Saturday night in Pullman, a big game for both programs. For the Cougs, they want to prove that they are the real deal with the new style of play, while Arizona wants to assert dominance across the conference. Arizona State will then head to Seattle to take on a struggling Washington Huskies program, in hopes of traveling back to the desert with a split in the Northwest.