No. 8 Arizona basketball struggles to make shots in loss to Washington State

Jan 13, 2024, 6:28 PM | Updated: 8:32 pm

Oumar Ballo...

Oumar Ballo ( X Photo/@ArizonaMBB)

( X Photo/@ArizonaMBB)

No. 8 Arizona men’s basketball had its worst shooting performance of the season in a 73-70 loss to Washington State Saturday in Pullman.

Arizona’s (12-4, 3-2) Caleb love missed the potential game-tying triple in the closing seconds, and the Cougars (12-5, 3-3) picked up their highest profile win of the season.

It is the second straight season WSU has beaten Arizona after a 74-61 victory in Tucson last season when Arizona was No. 5.

The Cougars led for 34 minutes of Saturday’s game, as Arizona shot a season-low 34.7% from the field. Arizona’s previous season-low was 38.8% in the Florida Atlantic loss in double overtime.

Love scored 28 points on 25 shots (10-for-25, 5-for-13 from deep), and Arizona’s next leading scorer was Oumar Ballo with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Ballo added 14 rebounds. Love dropped 20 in the second half.

Love gave the Wildcats their first lead of the second half with a deep 3 at 5:01 remaining, but Washington State quickly regained the advantage.

WSU’s Isaac Jones finished a layup as the shot clock expired with 2:09 left that gave his team a two-score lead, 64-60. Jones led Wazzu with 24 points and 13 boards.

Love hit another 3 and a tough floater in the final two minutes to keep the Wildcats engaged, but WSU made its last six field goals to stay on top.

Arizona’s Keshad Johnson banked in a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left to cut Washington State’s lead to 71-70. Myles Rice, who finished with 18 points, then made two free throws with 11.9 seconds left, and Love’s 3-pointer was off the mark to end the Wildcats’ comeback hopes.

Washington State started only one player standing shorter than 6-foot-8 and entered Saturday allowing 65.8 points per game, second lowest in the Pac-12.

“That was just a really great effort by our team, especially defensively,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “They’re such a high-octane, potent team. And a big part of that was us not turning it over against them.”

The Wildcats missed opportunities at the free-throw line by shooting 13-for-21. Arizona entered the game shooting 73.4% from the stripe.

Arizona is now 2-2 on the road and 2-2 on neutral floors this year with an 8-0 home record.

“What I see is an average basketball team that has these really high moments and then they relax,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We’ve got to figure that out as the coaching staff.”

The Wildcats return to Tucson to host USC on Wednesday and UCLA next Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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