All Washington State needed was a defensive stop to force double overtime Saturday night against Pac-12-leading Oregon.
The only problem was one of the Cougars didn't know the score.
As Oregon's E.J. Singler dribbled up court after Royce Woolridge sank a 3-pointer to tie the score with nine seconds left in overtime, Washington State guard Dexter Kernich-Drew inexplicably reached out and fouled him at mid-court. The ill-timed semi-intentional foul enabled Singler to drain a pair of free throws with four seconds to go to propel the Ducks to a 79-77 victory.
Singler admitted to reporters that he was "shocked" by Kernich-Drew's decision to foul, but the 6-foot-6 sophomore's teammates and coaches were quick to come to his defense.
"It was just a mistake," Washington State forward Brock Motum told the Associated Press. "It’s in the past now. He needs to keep his head up."
Added coach Ken Bone, "If not for him we wouldn’t have been in the game."
It's admirable of Motum and Bone not to blame Kernich-Drew, especially considering the mounting pressure on the fourth-year Washington State coach. With the Cougars (11-15, 2-11) on their way to a losing season after having failed to reach the NCAA tournament any of Bone's first three seasons, a vocal segment of Washington State students and alumni are pushing the school to make a coaching change.
There is some truth to what Bone said about Kernich-Drew playing a role in getting the team in position to spring an upset. As Oregon staged a furious rally from an 11-point halftime deficit, Kernich-Drew sank a trio of second-half 3-pointers to help make sure Washington State managed to at least get to overtime.
Nonetheless, Kernich-Drew's late foul was an egregious enough mistake that it will be the lasting image of this game for fans. Instead of the Cougars potentially taking aim at their biggest win of the season in double overtime, they were assured a sixth straight loss.
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