With 0.2 seconds left on the clock, Boogie Ellis made a floater over the head of Tyrell Roberts to give No. 17 USC (23-4, 12-4) a 62-60 win over Washington State men’s basketball (14-12, 7-8). It was the Cougs fifth straight loss and it came despite the fact that the offense hit 15 three pointers in the loss.
The decision to leave the 5′ 8″ Roberts in after the Trojans had taken a timeout was a questionable call, and Ellis was able to take advantage of it to guarantee his squad the win. Ellis’s bucket came after a 2:15 second scoring drought for both squads that saw their shots repeatedly not fall. In the midst of that drought, Dishon Jackson — who was seeing his first action in over a month — had a missed jump shot and Michael Flowers had a three that he left too short as well.
It was Max Agbnokpolo’s three pointer that marked the beginning of the final scoring drought, and tied the game at 60. He had gotten open in front of Southern California’s bench and took an uncontested three that was nothing but net. It came right after Roberts had hit a jumper to get the Cougar lead back out to three and force USC to shoot from beyond the arc. Unfortunately the defense wasn’t able to get the stop and that had set up Ellis’s game winner.
Sophomore Andrej Jakimovski had hit the first, but missed the second free throw to get the Cougs back in front after Drew Peterson had tied the game at 57. It was an unfortunate theme down the stretch that WSU was unable to hit free throws when it really needed to — Washington State hit five of its 10 from the charity stripe, with four of those misses coming in the final 10 minutes of the game.
The late game collapse was frustrating because WSU had lead from pretty much the opening minutes of the second half. While Peterson hit a three to open up the scoring out of the locker room, the Trojans would need Ellis to draw a foul on a three point shot — he hit all three pointers — to get the lead back. But Jakimovski and would drain his own three to make it 35-34 Washington State; that is until Isaiah Mobley drew a foul when he shot a three ball and then he proceeded to drain all three of his shots from the charity stripe. It was at this point that the Cougars went on an 11-2 run to make it 49-41 (eight points would be their largest of the game).
After a three by Agbonkpolo put an end to that run, both squads would swap buckets before the Cougars could get their lead back to eight at 57-51 with 5:43 left in the game. Southern California would close out the game on an 11-3 run of its own to get the final margin.
Washington State closed out the first half on a 24-6 run in the final 12 minutes to take erase a nine point deficit and take a 32-28 lead into the halftime locker room. The comeback was fueled, in part, by nine three pointers from the Cougars. Roberts was responsible for four of those threes, and this included the final field goal for either side in the half. That final three was the second of back-to-back threes for the Division two transfer.
Jakimovski tied the game at 26 with a three of his own to after Ellis had nailed the second of two free throws. In fact, Ellis and Peterson were pretty much the entirity of the Trojans’ offense during the Cougs run in the final 12 minutes of the half. And that was thanks to an impressive interior defense that forced Southern California’s offense out of its comfort zone.
The Cougars run in the final 12 minutes was needed because they were unable to get buckets in the paint against one of the best two point defenses in the country. WSU had hit 31.4% of its field goals, but 52.9% of its shots from out beyond the arc in the first half. In the first five mintues of the game, the Cougs had no real answer on the offensive end of the court and its why the Trojans were able to run out to 16-6 lead at the start of the game..
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Photo Credit: USC men’s basketball