By Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
PULLMAN — Jesse Perry picked up his third and fourth fouls less than a minute into the second half, which threatened to render Arizona’s second-leading scorer and rebounder irrelevant for the rest of the game.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Perry broke free to make two inside baskets and a free throw in the final 1:20 of the game, helping lift Arizona to a 76-72 win over Washington State on Thursday night.
“For us to play a whole second half with Jesse Perry having four fouls was really a tough situation for us,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I’m really proud of the way our team responded.
“The biggest thing was our offense was clicking,” Miller said.
Arizona shot 60 percent in the second half to hold off the Cougars, who got 28 points from Brock Motum.
“We were able to have a good offensive night on our end, because we certainly didn’t win because of our defense,” Miller said.
Brendon Lavender scored 17 points, Kyle Fogg had 16 points and Perry 14 for Arizona (19-8, 10-4 Pac-12), which won its fifth straight game and remains in the hunt for the Pac-12 title.
Reggie Moore added a season-high 21 points for Washington State (13-13, 5-9), which has lost four of its past seven games.
Motum made 8 of 14 shots, but he missed four of five free throws in the closing minutes. That included missing two of three free throws with 21 seconds left and the Cougars trailing by three.
“Ninety-nine times out of 100 I would have made that,” Motum said.
Miller sought out Motum, the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12 with an average of 17.4 points per game, after the game to offer encouragement.
“Hopefully he didn’t hang his head about any missed free throws at the end, because he willed his team” Miller said. “I always admired guys like him.”
Washington State’s game play was to attack the Arizona front line and try to get them in foul trouble.
“We did that early,” said Motum, who made 10 of 18 free throws in the game.
But the Cougars focused on stopping Lavender and Fogg late in the game, and that allowed Perry to break free, he said.
Washington State shot 50 percent, but no players besides Motum and Moore approached double figures. The Cougars have played well in their past six games, but have only two wins to show for it.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” Motum said. “But we need to start getting wins. That’s the bottom line.”
Arizona led 40-39 at the half, and Lavender’s 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a 52-49 lead with 12:16 left. DaVonte Lacy’s 3-pointer sparked an 8-0 run as Washington State took a 57-52 lead. But Arizona replied with a 9-0 run, including Lavender’s fifth 3-pointer, for a 61-57 lead.
Motum hit a pair of 3-pointers to tie it at 65 with 4:55 left. But he missed a pair of free throws with the score tied at 67 and 2:39 left.
Perry banked in a layup with 1:20 left for a 69-67 Arizona lead. Moore sank two free throws to tie it again at 69.
Perry scored inside again with 38 seconds left and drew the foul from Mike Ladd, making the free throw for a 72-69 lead.
Motum was fouled trying to make a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, but missed the first two free throws to leave the Wildcats ahead 72-70.
The Cougars were forced to foul and Fogg sank two free throws for a 74-70 lead with 19 seconds left.
Moore scored on a layup to cut Arizona’s lead to 74-72 with 13 seconds left.
Lavender sank two free throws for a 76-72 Arizona lead with 10 seconds left and time expired before the Cougars could score
Washington State scored the first seven points and led 9-1 before Arizona made its first field goal with 16:20 left. Arizona tied the game at 11 on consecutive 3-pointers by Solomon Hill and Fogg. After Washington State built a lead, three consecutive 3-pointers gave the Wildcats a 28-27 lead with 8 minutes left.
The teams traded leads until Arizona scored six unanswered points — Lavender’s 3-pointer the big shot — for a 40-37 lead. It was 40-39 at the half.
Arizona won the previous meeting, 85-61, a game in which WSU’s second-leading scorer Faisal Aden tore his ACL and was lost for the season. The Wildcats lead the series 55-16.
Arizona is 5-2 on the road in Pac-12 play.
“We play very well on the road,” Miller said. “We are probably as consistent as any team on the road.”