Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Washington St. Cougars Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 24th 2024

Washington State is ranked No. 21 and in first place in the Pac-12 Conference heading into Saturday’s game against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.

Who would’ve believed that?

The Cougars (21-6, 12-4 Pac-12) made plenty of believers Thursday night, knocking off No. 4 Arizona 77-74 thanks to Jaylen Wells’ four-point play with 24.6 seconds remaining.

“This is big,” Wells said. “There’s a lot of moments we could have folded. But we stayed poised, kept fighting back.

“I think it’s a big win for us, just because people thought we were the underdogs. People saying ‘Oh, you’ve got to play Arizona.’ Nah, they gotta play us.”

It was the eighth straight victory for the Cougars and might have clinched their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008. They swept Arizona in a season series for the first time 2009-10 and are seeking their first league title since 1941, when they were in the Pacific Coast Conference.

“I told the guys before the season: This is a tournament team. If we don’t get there, it’s on me,” coach Kyle Smith said. “I tried to take the pressure off them because I thought our talent was good enough. And you still don’t know going through it.”

Forward Isaac Jones, a transfer from Idaho, leads the Cougars in scoring (15.7 per game) and rebounding (7.6) and is the Pac-12’s reigning Player of the Week. Wells, who came from Division II Sonoma State, scored 27 Thursday and is second in the conference in 3-point shooting at 45.9 percent.

Guard Myles Rice, who missed last season while receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, averages 15.5 points and 3.7 assists and has been named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week four straight times and seven times overall.

“I think a lot of it just comes with our stories,” Wells said. “Obviously Isaac comes from a JUCO. I come from D-II. Oscar (Cluff) comes from JUCO. Myles, you know his story. We just have a lot of different players that have just come from a lot of places where we didn’t really have the resources we have here. So having the resources we have here, we don’t take it for granted.”

The Cougars were predicted to finish 10th in the conference’s preseason media poll, while the Sun Devils (13-14, 7-9) were selected sixth.

Arizona State suffered an embarrassing 105-60 loss at rival Arizona last weekend and appeared headed for another blowout Thursday when they fell behind Washington by 25 points early in the second half.

At that point Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley made a hockey line change, pulling all of his starters.

The second unit sparked a comeback and Frankie Collins scored 10 of his team-high 21 points in the final 1:23 of regulation as ASU improbably forced overtime.

But Collins fouled out 1:01 into the extra session and the Sun Devils lost 82-80.

“That game had no business going into overtime the way we played for (23) minutes, but somehow we were there,” Hurley said. “We deserved to lose.”

–Field Level Media

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