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SOUR APPLES: Huskies men's basketball team top No. 18 WSU in final Apple Cup as league foes

Mar. 8—After playing nearly perfect basketball at home all season, the No. 18 Washington State men's hoops team couldn't get the home victory that mattered most.

The Washington Huskies defeated the Cougars 74-68 on Friday at Beasley Coliseum to spoil their senior day and sour the final Apple Cup game between the two schools as conference foes. It was also announced as the largest attendance at any basketball game in the state of Washington this season at 9,311 fans.

But Washington State (23-8, 14-6 Pac-12), which had been magical all season, dropped a dud against its rivals. Washington improved to 17-14 and 9-11.

After the final buzzer, several Husky players took to center court to stomp and wipe their feet on the Cougar logo.

"Not going to win many games shooting 39% (from the floor), 16% (from 3) and 47% (from the foul line)," WSU coach Kyle Smith said. "We've got a week to get better."

Stars of the game

WSU senior post Isaac Jones had a dominant presence in the paint with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, but his 2-of-8 showing from the foul line hindered the Cougars' ability to stay in the game.

As a team, WSU went just 8-of-17 (47.1%) from the free-throw line — a number that's usually over 70%.

For Washington, guard Koren Johnson had 23 points and star forward Keion Brooks chipped in 22 points and nine rebounds. Both players left the floor for just a combined three minutes.

"Keion Brooks is an NBA player, period," Smith said of the 6-foot-7 senior. "Those are hard to beat, but we've got some guys who are probably close to that too."

A record for WSU's Rice

Freshman phenom Myles Rice overcame a slow start to finish with eight points, six assists and two steals.

In the process, he passed CJ Elleby to become WSU's all-time scoring leader for a freshman. He has 473 points this season (15.3 per game) with still the Pac-12 tournament and NCAA tournament to come. He passed Elleby's mark of 471 set in the 2018-19 season.

Rice also became the all-time freshman steals leader with 48, passing Mike Bush's 47.

Bench a bright spot

Needing a spark to electrify Beasley's biggest crowd of the season, the Cougars received one from their bench in the first half.

Freshman guard Isaiah Watts hit a big 3-pointer and had two steals he turned into fast-break slam dunks to bring the Crimson-clad faithful to life.

Watts' second slam capped a 15-4 WSU run that put them up 19-15.

Watts finished with 15 points and carried over his stellar play from an 18-point performance in a win Feb. 28 against USC.

"Isaiah's been great," Smith said. "It's been neat to see him emerge. He's a fearless guy. He'll make a few rookie mistakes but the positives far outweigh the negatives."

Junior post Oscar Cluff added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Rice and Cluff were WSU's only double-digit scorers besides Jones.

Other key moments

Watts and Cluff's lift helped WSU build a 30-20 lead with two minutes to go in the first period.

Then the Huskies went on a 12-0 run to end the period with a 32-30 lead when Sahvir Wheeler's driving layup beat the halftime buzzer.

The Cougars' slumping ways didn't go away in the second period.

WSU went scoreless for a nearly five-minute stretch in which UW went on an 11-0 run to go up 61-53.

The Cougars twice cut the deficit back down to three, the last on a Jones dunk with 2:52 to go, but Washington answered the slam with a tough mid-range jumper by Brooks to lead 65-60.

WSU got to the free-throw line several times down the stretch, only to miss one or both attempts, and UW held on for the upset victory.

Big picture

UW will head into the postseason with some momentum while WSU will try to regroup before heading to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament, which tips off Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.

The Cougars will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

A deep run in the tournament could also help WSU's seeding for the NCAA tournament. The Cougars are currently projected to be a No. 5 seed in their first trip to the NCAA tourney under Smith.

"We'll get our bearings right," Smith said. "We're playing with real pressure — when you're ranked, it's a different space for us — so maybe that (loss will) humble us a little bit. We're a little hungrier going down there."

WASHINGTON (17-14)

Breidenbach 4-4 0-0 8, Brooks 9-17 2-4 22, Wood 4-6 0-0 10, Johnson 6-15 9-11 23, Mulcahy 0-1 0-0 0, Wheeler 4-7 1-2 9, Meah 1-2 0-0 2, Holland 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 28-55 12-17 74.

WASHINGTON ST. (23-8)

Jakimovski 1-8 0-0 2, Jones 9-17 2-8 20, Wells 3-13 2-2 9, Chinyelu 0-2 0-0 0, Rice 2-9 4-6 8, Watts 6-11 0-0 15, Cluff 6-8 0-0 12, Houinsou 1-3 0-1 2. Totals 28-71 8-17 68.

Halftime — Washington 32-30. 3-Point Goals — Washington 6-16 (Brooks 2-3, Wood 2-4, Johnson 2-5, Wheeler 0-1, Holland 0-3), Washington St. 4-24 (Watts 3-7, Wells 1-10, Houinsou 0-1, Rice 0-2, Jakimovski 0-4). Rebounds — Washington 31 (Brooks 9), Washington St. 42 (Jones 10). Assists — Washington 11 (Wheeler 6), Washington St. 13 (Rice 6). Total Fouls — Washington 16, Washington St. 14. A — 9,311 (11,671).

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.