Washington State’s sophomore guard Royce Woolridge scored 36 points against No. 23 Oregon on Saturday afternoon, with 22 of them coming in the first half. But he is not the WSU player who made the final and most impactful play for the Cougars.
Instead, that honor goes to another sophomore, Dexter Kernich-Drew, who inexplicably fouled Oregon’s E.J. Singler with under five seconds left in overtime — and despite Woolridge having just hit a game-tying, three-point bomb.
The reliable Singler nailed both the foul-line attempts, and the Ducks escaped a wild tangle with the Cougars, 79-77, to improve to 10-3 in the Pac-12, tops in the conference.
After trailing the Cougars by double-digits at halftime for the second time this season, the Ducks rallied to hold a five-point lead with less than 30 seconds left in regulation.
With 19 seconds left in the second half, WSU’s Brock Motum was fouled on a three-point attempt and made two of the foul shots. Ducks’ replacement point guard Johnathan Loyd was then fouled to stop the clock — but he left the door open for the Cougars by missing both of his free throws.
With less than 15 seconds to go, Washington State had a chance to tie with a three. DaVonté Lacy was 0-for-3 from behind the arc, but that changed when he made an open look from the corner and tied the game at 71-71 with nine ticks left.
Damyean Dotson and Singler both missed winning attempts in the waning seconds, and the game headed to overtime.
In OT, Oregon was able to go up three after a Carlos Emory steal and slam to put the tally at 75-72. At the one-minute mark, he made one of two free throws to keep the lead at three. Down three and with the ball, the Cougars repeated themselves, again tying the game with a three at the nine-second mark.
With the score knotted at 77-77, the Ducks raced up the court, and Singler crossed the midway line. Seemingly with no plan and before he could call timeout, pass or shoot, Kernich-Drew baffled everyone by hacking him and sending him to the line. Singler converted them both, and Woolridge’s half-court attempt to tie was no good, allowing Oregon to steal the win.
Singler had a season-high 25 points, the best scoring effort for a Duck this season and just one point shy of his own career high. Emory also put up his personal best for the season with 20, while Dotson contributed 16.
Woolridge, who averages less than nine points per contest, scored a career best 36, while Motum, the Cougs usual top scorer, had 12.
Arsalan Kazemi led all players in rebounds with 12.
In the first half, things could not have gone worse for Oregon, as they shot 33 percent from the field, allowed a single opposition player to score 22 in one half and lost Tony Woods to an ejection for a flagrant foul. The Ducks trailed at the half, 38-27.
In the first five minutes of the second half, Oregon went on a 15-5 run, including eight in a row from Singler, to pull within one point.
With 14:24 remaining, the Ducks captured a one-point advantage, the first time they had led since the score was 11-10.
Kernich-Drew hit two threes in a row to put WSU up five points with under 12 to go. Woolridge scored his first points of the second half at 8:11 with a pair of free throws, and moments later, he made a three to put his squad up, 59-56. Singler quickly answered with a trey of his own, and the Ducks then regained the lead on an unconventional three-point play from Emory, in which he received a through-the-legs pass from Loyd but lost the ball mid-air upon being fouled. However, the ball went off the board and in, and Emory added the foul shot.
A short jumper from Loyd gave Oregon its biggest lead of the game to that point at 63-59 and made it eight unanswered points for them.
Oregon’s eventual victory made them 4-0 on the year against the Washington schools, the first time Ducks’ men’s basketball has accomplished such a feat since 1990.