PULLMAN — Washington State’s Brock Motum believes taking No. 23 Oregon to overtime in a 79-77 loss on Saturday is proof that the last-place Cougars have not given up on the season.
“The losses column is adding up now, and we could easily turn our backs on ourselves and our coaches,” Motum said. “Today we fought back.”
The team has five games left and the Pac-12 tournament, Motum said.
“A lot of teams can underestimate us because of our record,” Motum said.
Oregon, which is first in the Pac-12, is not likely to underestimate the Cougars should the teams meet again in the conference tournament.
Washington State led by 18 points early, and 11 points at halftime, before the Ducks were able to mount a comeback.
Oregon’s E.J. Singler was prepared for a lot of possible scenarios as he dribbled the ball up the court with the Ducks and Washington State tied in the final seconds of overtime.
What he didn’t expect was WSU’s Dexter Kernich-Drew to reach out and foul him.
Singler sank both free throws with 3.8 seconds left in overtime for the winning points.
“Some of the guys were calling ‘foul,’ so I don’t think he knew what the score was,” said Singler, who finished with 25 points. “I was shocked.”
Washington State players and coaches rallied around Kernich-Drew, saying one mistake did not cause the defeat.
“It was just a mistake,” Motum said. “It’s in the past now. He needs to keep his head up.”
“If not for him we wouldn’t have been in the game,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said of Kernich-Drew, who had several key baskets.
Carlos Emory added 20 points for Oregon (21-5, 10-3).
Royce Woolridge scored a career-high 36 points for Washington State (11-15, 2-11), losers of six straight. Woolridge missed a half-court shot as time expired.
The score was tied at 71 at the end of regulation.
DaVonte Lacy’s free throw put Washington State up 72-71, but Johnathan Loyd replied with a basket and then Emory stole a pass and slammed the ball home for a 75-72 Oregon lead.
Motum sank two free throws to bring WSU within one.
Singler made a free throw to give Oregon a 76-74 lead. After a WSU miss, Emory was fouled on the rebound and made his first free throw but missed his second. Oregon got the rebound but turned the ball over with 29 seconds left. Woolridge made a long 3-pointer to tie the score at 77.
But Dexter Kernich-Drew fouled Singler with 3.8 seconds left and the senior made both free throws for the winning points.
Washington State’s first four field goals of the game were 3-pointers as they took a 13-11 lead.
Oregon center Tony Woods was called for a flagrant foul for elbowing Motum, WSU’s leading scorer, in the head and was ejected from the game with 9:55 left in the first and Oregon trailing 19-13. Motum was on the floor for several minutes holding his head but returned quickly. Woods averages 10 points and 3 rebounds per game.
Washington State scored six consecutive points after that foul to take a 25-13 lead.
Oregon managed only one field goal over a 13-minute span to fall behind 32-15.
The Ducks clawed back behind three baskets by Emory, but Washington State led 38-27 at halftime. Woolridge had 22 points in the first half, besting his career high of 20. Oregon shot just 33 percent in the opening half, to 46 percent for WSU.
“We were dead, just standing around with no energy,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said of the first half.
Oregon opened the second half with a quick 15-5 run, nine of the points by Singler and six by Damyean Dotson, to cut WSU’s lead to 43-42.
Then Waverly Austin’s basket gave Oregon its first lead since early in the game at 44-43 with 14:17 left.
“We all just got together and the chemistry started flowing,” Emory said.
Two 3-pointers by Kernich-Drew put WSU ahead 52-47.
The teams traded baskets, and Austin’s layup brought Oregon to 56-55. Woolridge hit a 3-pointer for WSU, but Singler replied with one for Oregon.
Emory’s dunk and free throw put Oregon ahead 61-59 with 5:54 left.
Arsalan Kazemi’s layup gave Oregon a 67-64 lead. After Motum made one of two free throws, Emory sank two free throws to put the Ducks up 69-65 with 1:58 left.
Washington State missed several 3-point tries. Then Woolridge was fouled going for a layup, and sank one free throw to bring WSU to 69-66 with 32 seconds left.
Washington State fouled Singler, who made both for a 71-66 lead with 28 seconds left. Motum was fouled shooting a 3 and made two of three to cut Oregon’s lead to 71-68 with 18 seconds left.
Loyd was immediately fouled and missed both.
Washington State’s D.J. Shelton rebounded and, after a timeout, DaVonte Lacy sank a 3-pointer from the left corner to tie the score at 71 with 5.3 seconds left.
Dotson and Singler both got off shots for Oregon, but missed and the game went into overtime.
“I’m really proud of my teammates,” Woolridge said. “We went out there and we fought. … We may not be winning every game, but we fight.”
Oregon has won five in a row over Washington State, including the game earlier this season in Eugene. They swept both Washington schools for the first time since 1990.
Washington State is 0-5 against ranked opponents this season.