WSU men’s basketball (14-7, 7-3) walked out of Cal’s Haas Pavilion with a 68-64 win despite a late second half collapse that almost saw the Golden Bears (9-15, 2-11) pull off the upset win. The 68-64 victory gave Washington State the season sweep over Cal, and its first sweep in the Bay Area since 1993.
With 25 seconds left in the game, Jalen Celestine banked in a three pointer that he’d thrown up in desperation to cut the Cougar lead down to two. That bucket was followed up by a missed Noah Williams free throw — he finished the night without scoring a single point — and an empty Cal possession. Ultimately, the game came down to Michael Flowers ability to hit free throws under pressure, and he did marvelously as he went 4-4 down the stretch; all four of those points were the final points scored by WSU in the game and gave us the final margin.
The second half wasn’t always that tight as the Cougars started it off with nine of the first 13 points to take a 40-35 lead in the first four minutes. Efe Abogidi and Mouhamed Guyey started the second half off on an absolute tear as they accounted for six of the Cougars first ten points. Abogidi was also responsible for one hell of a dunk with 10:24 left on a fast break that pushed Washington State’s lead up to nine; it was in the middle of a 9-3 run that helped the Cougars build up a lead that was just big enough to hold onto for the win.
But the Cougars had a tough time containing Celestine and Lars Thiemann, as they were primarily responsible for Cal’s offensive success throughout the game. Thiemann proved to be a problem anytime he got in the paint or near the hoop. And the Washington State defense struggled to account for him at times.
The Cougs lead would reach its largest at 60-48 with 7:24 left in the game after Tyrell Roberts hit an uncontested three pointer. But that lead didn’t last for long as Cal would reel off the next six points to cut that 12 point WSU lead in half. Despite the fact that their lead was suddenly cut in half, the Cougars kept their foot off the gas on the offensive end of the court and it nearly came back to bite them in the ass.
A 7-0 run in the middle of the first half gave Washington State a lead that it would not relinquish as it headed into the break. The run was started when Gueye hit a two-point jumper with 7:45 left in the half to cut the Golden Bears lead down to two. Abogidi would chip in with the next five of the seven points to get the Cougs a 31-28 lead before the run came to an end. Foreman would put an end to the WSU run, and Jalen Celestine would hit a three to close out Cal’s scoring for the first half.
Abogidi hit a pair of free throws to make it 33-31, a margin that WSU would take into the locker room. WSU was unable to capitalize on its final possession of the half as Williams lost control of the ball as he drove the lane; Cal got possession and fired off a three quarter court shot that was off line at the buzzer.
Cal started off the scoring in the first half when Shepherd made a jumper, which was quickly followed up by a Roberts three ball. This set the trend for the early portion of the first half as the Bears would score, and the Cougs would respond with a three-pointer. In the first ten minutes, Washington State hit five shots from beyond the arc.
The Bears were able to adjust and take away the three point shot, and built up a four point lead at one point. But that didn’t stand as the Cougars kicked off their 7-0 run with 7:45 left in the half.
At the half, WSU had outshot Cal from the field and the three point line; with the Golden Bears only preforming better from the charity stripe (2 for 2 for Cal and 3 for 4 by the Cougars). The major reason that Cal had hung in the first half — despite the six threes for WSU — was the the fact that they had recovered more offensive boards to give the Bears more second chance opportunities.
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Photo Credit: Cougar Men’s Basketball