First it was COVID-19 protocols that forced a Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball game between Washington State and Stanford to be moved from an 8 p.m. Wednesday start to a 2 p.m. Thursday start to accomodate the Cardinal playing a make-up game late Tuesday against No. 5 USC.
Then on game day, it was Stanford’s team physicians not being satisfied with virus testing results of Washington State’s players, so there was at least two rounds of testing after the starters for the teams were announced just before tip-off.
Once the game did begin, an hour and 15 minutes after the original start time, the Cougars would race out to what looked to be a commanding 11-point lead early in the second half.
Finally, Murphy’s Law intervened.
The Cardinal used a decisive, game-changing 23-0 run in a 10 minute, 44 second stretch of the second half to beat the demoralized Cougars 62-57 at Beasley Coliseum.
“I thought we came out and played pretty well in the first half,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “Went in with the lead, something we’ve done all year. Addressed it. Second half we came out and couldn’t get a stop, stopped making baskets and it was tough to stem the tide through momentum. At least we answered a little bit at the end of the game trying to scrap and crawl our way back in that thing.”
This is not the first time Washington State (9-7, 2-3) has blown a large lead at home this season, but this one could be a crushing blow for a team that had just beaten Utah in Salt Lake City for the first time since 1946 and seemed to be turning the corner and getting all of its players back from being under the weather.
Spencer Jones and Brandon Angel each had 16 points to lead Stanford (10-4, 2-1), who was just two days removed from upsetting the Trojans. Jaiden Delaire added 14 points as the Cardinal went 13-for-23 (56.5 percent) from the field in the second half.
Freshman forward Mouhamed Gueye paced the Cougars with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Michael Flowers added 12 points and junior guard Tyrell Roberts chipped in 12 points.
However, Washington State was 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) from the field, including 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range, in the final 20 minutes. The Cougars, who had 17 turnovers for the game, committed 11 of those miscues in the second half.
Washington State held a 12-point lead in the waning seconds of the first half, but Jones canned a 3 to trim the gap to 35-26 at halftime.
The Cougars held a 42-31 edge with 17:32 remaining in the game after Flowers hit a 3, but then Washington State went cold and Stanford heated up.
The Cougars missed 12 consecutive shots during the game-breaking spurt by the Cardinal. It didn’t matter where they were shooting from, they couldn’t convert. Washington State also was careless with the ball, turning it over six times and even had a dreaded shot clock violation.
“I thought our second half tonight was our second-worst half of the year,” Smith said, then made reference to the first-half effort in a 77-74 home loss Dec. 11 against South Dakota State. “We probably should have used all of our timeouts in that run. It was a slow run where we needed to get a basket, and we didn’t. But we definitely hung our heads a little bit.”
Junior guard Noah Williams stopped the bleeding with a free throw with 5:27 left and a 54-43 Stanford lead. The Cardinal then scored three more points and built their advantage to 14 points.
The Cougars tried to come back, and whittled their deficit to five, but they just ran out of time.
Washington State next plays at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against California.
STANFORD (10-4, 2-1)
Delaire 4-7 5-7 14, Ingram 1-6 2-3 4, Jones 6-11 1-2 16, Keefe 4-4 0-1 8, O’Connell 1-4 0-1 2, Angel 6-11 2-2 16, Silva 0-1 0-1 0, Taitz 0-3 0-0 0, Kisunas 1-1 0-0 2, Murrell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 10-17 62.
WASHINGTON ST. (9-7, 2-3)
Gueye 8-13 0-2 16, Abogidi 1-2 0-0 2, Bamba 3-7 2-3 8, Flowers 4-9 0-0 12, Williams 2-9 2-5 6, Roberts 4-10 0-0 10, Jakimovski 0-3 0-0 0, Koulibaly 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 23-57 4-10 57.
Halftime: Washington St., 35-26. 3-Point Goals: Stanford 6-19 (Jones 3-7, Angel 2-4, Delaire 1-1, Murrell 0-1, O’Connell 0-1, Taitz 0-2, Ingram 0-3), Washington St. 7-26 (Flowers 4-8, Roberts 2-6, Koulibaly 1-2, Abogidi 0-1, Gueye 0-1, Bamba 0-2, Jakimovski 0-3, Williams 0-3). Rebounds: Stanford 32 (Keefe 6), Washington St. 29 (Gueye 11). Assists: Stanford 13 (O’Connell 4), Washington St. 10 (Williams, Roberts 4). Total Fouls: Stanford 17, Washington St. 16. A: 2,612 (11,671).