USC men can’t hold on to lead and lose to Washington State

Washington State guard Myles Rice shoots during the second half.
Washington State guard Myles Rice shoots during the second half.
(Young Kwak / Associated Press)

Isaiah Watts and Andrej Jakimovski scored 18 points each and Myles Rice added 16 to help No. 19 Washington State rally past USC 75-72 on Thursday night.

The Cougars (22-7, 13-5 Pac-12) trailed by 12 points late in the first half and didn’t take their first lead until 2:35 remaining on a three-pointer from Watts, his fifth of the game.

Washington State avoided what would have been its second straight loss to an unranked opponent after winning at No. 4 Arizona on Feb. 22. With the win and UCLA’s loss at Washington, the Cougars locked up a top-four seed and a bye in the Pac-12 tournament.


“We talk about this being a character development program. They really showed their character,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “It would have been easy to hang their head. They were playing well. We couldn’t get a stop. No one hung their head and we made it happen.”

Washington State’s recent eight-game winning streak has given the program a chance to win its first Pac-12 men’s basketball regular season title since 1941.

Feb. 28, 2024

USC freshman Isaiah Collier scored a game-high 24 points but missed a critical free throw with 23 seconds left that would have cut Washington State’s lead to two points.

Jaylen Wells then missed two free throws for Washington State and USC (11-17, 5-12) had one last chance to try and force overtime, but Boogie Ellis and Kobe Johnson missed three-point attempts in the final seconds.

Wells, who had 13 points, scored five straight to put Wazzu on top for good and stretch its lead to 73-69.

The Cougars, playing in front of their largest crowd (8,288) since 2020, shot 10 of 20 from three-point range. All but one of their threes came from Watts and Jakimovski.

“Having that kind of crowd this time of year probably pulled us through, to be honest,” Smith said. “We had to dig deep and make some plays.”


Collier used his physicality and athleticism to score 14 points in the first half. He had back-to-back clutch drives and baskets in the final minutes.

Late in the first half the Cougars turned it over on three straight possessions and five times in a two-minute stretch to help USC race to a 39-27 lead. But Washington State closed the half with an 8-0 run to close the gap to 39-35 at intermission.

“I think we didn’t play great,” Jakimovski said. “Actually I think we played awful — I mean, defense, offense. But you know, we never gave up and we made some big plays at the end.”

USC outscored the Cougars 46-20 in the paint.

DJ Rodman, a USC graduate transfer who played his first four years at Washington State, was greeted with frequent boos in his return to Pullman. He scored eight points.

Big picture

USC: The Trojans controlled this one for most of the night and looked to be on their way to their third win in four games. But they failed to get stops at the end to continue a disappointing season.

Washington State: The Cougars look disjointed for much of the night on offense and suffered multiple defensive breakdowns like they did last week at Arizona State. But their three-point shooting kept them in the game and they caught fire at the end to continue their best season in 15 years.


Up next for USC: at Washington on Saturday.