Cougar comeback falls short

CALEB FORREST

SOMETIMES THE HOLES dug are, in the end, too deep. Washington State nearly pulled off a spirited comeback against Southern Cal on Thursday, erasing nearly all of a 14-point second half deficit. In the end, though, the deficit they dug for themselves in the first half was too steep a climb.

The box score will show a 61-51 defeat but the game itself was lost in the first 13:25 of the first half. In six minutes plus, Washington State had scored six total points, all from Caleb Forrest.

The early 19-6 deficit came about because Washington State (13-13, 5-9) couldn't hit from outside. USC did a solid job of defending Klay Thompson, the Cougs' leading scorer and when Thompson did get an open look, he appeared, as did his Wazzu teammates with the exception of Forrest, who finished with a dozen points, to rush their shots.

Wazzu did put on a spirited second half charge, a 15-4 run to be exact, that cut the Trojan lead to a single point, but the Cougs could get no closer. Taylor Rochestie, who had only one shot attempt in the first half against Oregon State, came out looking to score against USC. Unfortunately for the Cougs he missed on his first four attempts, all from beyond the arc. The senior point guard eventually got it going, winding up with 16 to lead Wazzu.

The Cougs allowed USC to hit at a 48 percent clip in the first half, with nearly all of the points coming from inside the three point line.

But it was Washington State's lack of an inside game on offense that might have hurt most. Aron Baynes got few looks and when he did get the ball the Trojans brought an immediate double team. Baynes did tie his season high with three blocked shots, The senior moved into a tie for 11th in the WSU career record books with 80 career blocks.

Baynes finished with nine points, five of those coming from the free throw line, and took only four shot attempts on the night. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Casto in the second half, whom the Trojans put one of their better defenders on but did not double down on, found success inside. In just 15 minutes, he scored seven points on 3-for-4 shooting.

Thompson, who was playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends including his former high school coach, never found the rhythm. He was 2-for-13 from the floor and his five points were his lowest output since his four against Gonzaga back on Dec. 10.

Washington State meets No. 15 UCLA (20-6, 9-4) on Saturday at noon at Pauley Pavilion. The game will be televised by Fox Sports and is available in HD.

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