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Newly ranked No. 21 Washington State knocks off No. 4 Arizona at Tucson, 77-74

Wells’ late 4-point play helps Cougars sweep Wildcats

By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer
Published: February 22, 2024, 10:49pm
3 Photos
Washington State center Rueben Chinyelu (20) defends against Arizona center Oumar Ballo (11) under the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Tucson, Ariz.
Washington State center Rueben Chinyelu (20) defends against Arizona center Oumar Ballo (11) under the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP) Photo Gallery

TUCSON, Ariz. — Jaylen Wells hit one of the biggest shots in recent Washington State history to lead the program to a thrilling road victory.

His only regret is he didn’t get to see it.

Wells had a crucial 4-point play in the final minute and scored 27 points to help No. 21 Washington State beat No. 4 Arizona 77-74 on Thursday night for its eighth straight victory.

“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.’

“No, they’ve got to play us.”

Washington State (21-6, 12-4 Pac-12) won in its first game in the AP Top 25 since the 2007-08 season and leapfrogged the Wildcats (20-6, 11-4) for first place in the conference race.

The game was tight the entire night — neither team led by more than seven points. And the final minute was a thriller.

Arizona’s Caleb Love drove to the hoop for a layup and got fouled with 51.2 seconds left, hitting the free throw to complete the 3-point play for a 74-71 lead. Wells responded on the next possession with a corner 3 — also while being fouled — and made the free throw for a 4-point play and a 75-74 lead with 24.6 seconds left.

“Honestly, I caught the ball, I shot it, I didn’t see the rim,” Wells said. “Then I was laying on the ground, a dude was sitting on me, I look up and hear someone in the crowd say, ‘Yeah, dog!’”

The Wildcats had a chance to win, but Love was called for traveling after slipping and falling on a drive to the basket with 4.7 seconds left. Wells hit two free throws with 2.7 seconds left for a 77-74 lead that sealed it.

Arizona lost for the first time at home this season after winning 13 straight. Love led the Wildcats with 27 points and Oumar Ballo had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

“We had opportunities,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “They’ve been really good in close games, they’re a team on a roll, and they found a way. They made some clutch, big-time plays down the stretch.”

Wells shot 9 of 16 from the field, including 6 of 10 on 3-pointers. Isaac Jones added 16 points for the Cougars.

Washington State’s first offensive possession resulted in a rushed 3-pointer that didn’t even touch the rim, but the Cougars adjusted to the raucous atmosphere quickly, leading for a big chunk of the first half.

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The Cougars took a 34-33 lead into the break. Wells scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers.

BIG PICTURE

Washington State: The Cougars certainly looked like a team that deserved a national ranking, playing well in a hostile environment. Now they’re in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 race — something few expected when the season started.

Arizona: The Wildcats have had games this season where they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the country. This wasn’t one of them. Spotty shot selection caught up with them in the end.

UP NEXT

Washington State is at Arizona State on Saturday night. Arizona hosts Washington on Saturday.

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NO. 21 WASHINGTON STATE 77, NO. 4 ARIZONA 74

WASHINGTON ST. (21-6) — Jakimovski 1-8 4-4 6, Jones 4-9 8-11 16, Wells 9-16 3-3 27, Cluff 1-5 1-2 3, Rice 2-12 1-2 5, Chinyelu 6-7 0-0 12, Houinsou 3-5 2-2 8, Watts 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 19-24 77.

ARIZONA (20-6) — Johnson 4-9 4-6 12, Ballo 6-8 4-8 16, Boswell 2-8 1-2 6, Larsson 4-8 0-0 8, Love 8-20 7-8 27, Bradley 1-3 0-0 2, Lewis 1-1 1-3 3, Krivas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 17-27 74.

Halftime—Washington St. 34-33. 3-Point GoalsWashington St. 6-18 (Wells 6-10, Jakimovski 0-4, Rice 0-4), Arizona 5-18 (Love 4-12, Boswell 1-4, Johnson 0-1, Larsson 0-1). Rebounds—Washington St. 35 (Chinyelu 11), Arizona 36 (Ballo 11). Assists—Washington St. 13 (Jakimovski 4), Arizona 15 (Love 5). Total Fouls—Washington St. 22, Arizona 20.

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