Washington St. Cougars vs. UCLA Bruins Pick & Prediction MARCH 2nd 2024

No. 19 Washington State enters Saturday’s game with UCLA at Pullman, Wash., riding the momentum of its comeback victory over Southern California on Thursday.

The Cougars (22-7, 13-5 Pac-12), hunting their first Pac-12 title, faced the possibility of losing consecutive games against teams with losing conference records.

Washington State, which has not earned a conference championship since the 1940-41 season when it was part of the Pacific Coast Conference, trailed visiting USC by 12 points late in the first half.

The Cougars didn’t take their first lead until 2:35 remained on a 3-pointer from Isaiah Watts, his fifth of the game.

But they prevailed 75-72 to remain one-half game behind Arizona (22-6, 13-4).

Entering Thursday, Washington State was trying to rebound from a 73-61 loss at Arizona State.

Watts finished with a career-high 18 points in the win over USC.

The crowd of 8,288 at Beasley Coliseum was the program’s largest since Klay Thompson’s jersey was retired in 2020.

“Having those fans was incredible,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “Hats off to all the marketing people. They got the people out. Our players have done a good job of putting a nice team together and having that kind of crowd probably pulled us through, to be honest.

“We had to dig deep and make some plays.”

Andrej Jakimovski also scored 18 points and Myles Rice contributed 16 for the Cougars, who swept USC for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

UCLA (14-14, 9-8) is on a three-game losing streak after winning five consecutive games.

The Bruins lost 94-77 at Washington on Thursday after losing at home to Utah and USC.

The 94 points is the most UCLA has allowed this season under coach Mitch Cronin, who prides himself on his team’s defense.

Reporters outside of UCLA’s locker room indicated that Cronin could be heard yelling after the game.

“Coach was delivering a big message to us,” UCLA guard Dylan Andrews said. “We don’t allow 90 points.”

Washington made 15 of 24 attempts from 3-point range and shot 55.6 percent overall.

UCLA’s defense forced only six turnovers.

“That wasn’t a Mick Cronin team out there tonight,” Cronin said. “We looked soft all night, so very, very frustrated.

“I’m trying to figure out who I can build a program with – that’s what I told them. You can’t build a program with guys that won’t fight.”

Lazar Stefanovic led UCLA with 22 points.

Andrews added 21 points with 11 assists and Adem Bona had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

UCLA had only four turnovers but the Bruins shot 7 of 22 from 3-point range and went to the free-throw line 15 times (making 12) while Washington was 19 of 24 with its free-throw attempts.

Cronin was whistled for a technical foul after UCLA was called for three fouls within four seconds in the first half. One of the fouls was called before the ball could be inbounded.

Cronin mentioned he will file a report with the Pac-12 and the NCAA about the officiating.

“Nobody will probably care, but it needs to be done because what happened is utterly ridiculous,” Cronin said.

–Field Level Media

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