SEATTLE — Malachi Flynn did what he wanted in the final 2 1/2 minutes, dribbling around screens, scoring baskets and lifting his team. And for all that Washington freshman Markelle Fultz did, it was Washington State’s freshman guard that was the star in the closing moments.
Flynn scored eight of his 16 points in the final 2:13, and Washington State rallied for a stunning 79-74 win over Washington on Sunday night.
“For a freshman to come back home, in this environment and have the poise — not only to want the ball but to have the poise to make the plays consistently — that shows you his potential greatness down the road,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.
Washington State (8-5, 1-0 Pac-12) closed the game on a 12-3 run thanks to Flynn and Josh Hawkinson. Trailing 71-67, the duo took over, combining to score the final 12 points for the Cougars and give them their first conference victory in nearly a calendar year.
Washington State’s last conference win came on Jan. 3, 2016 when the Cougars beat UCLA at home. Seventeen straight losses to conference opponents later, the Cougars finally snapped their skid.
Hawkinson finished with 26 points and eight rebounds, while Flynn scored 13 in the second half. Flynn made 6 of 10 shots and added six assists.
“It’s big coming to Seattle and winning our first game but we know we’ve got a lot down the road,” Flynn said.
Fultz led Washington (7-6, 0-1) with 26 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, falling just short of the first triple-double in Washington history. But after carrying Washington for most of the second half, Fultz went scoreless in the final 2 1/2 minutes. After taking a 71-67 lead, Washington missed four straight shots and had a key turnover during a stretch where Flynn was fantastic.
Noah Dickerson added 19 points for the Huskies.
“A very tough loss. It’s not just your conference opener but it’s an opener at home and we did not play well enough to get it done. Very unfortunate,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Fultz spent the first 25 minutes getting others involved, before taking over the scoring to help Washington rally from an eight-point deficit early in the second half. Fultz scored nine of 13 points during a 5 1/2 minute stretch, and Washington pulled even at 64-64 with 7:37 remaining after a layup by Dickerson.
Washington State briefly took a 67-66 lead after Hawkinson split a pair of free throws with 4:20 remaining, but Fultz’s 17-footer with 3:22 remaining put the Huskies ahead 68-67. Less than a minute later, Fultz’s 3-pointer over Hawkinson as the shot clock expired extended the lead to 71-67.
That’s when Flynn took over. He answered quickly with a driving layup and Hawkinson’s basket underneath with 1:36 left pulled the Cougars even at 71-71.
Fultz turned the ball over on Washington’s next possession and Flynn beat David Crisp off a screen and scored with 48.6 remaining to give Washington State the lead. Fultz missed a driving layup with his left hand and rather than foul, Washington played out the remaining time. Flynn beat Dickerson off the dribble and scored at the rim with 13.9 seconds left for a four-point lead and Washington State added four free throws in the final seconds.
“We didn’t guard the ball screen properly,” Romar said. “The first half we did a very good job guarding everything. But there were breakdowns in the second half and in those final stretches ball-screen defense broke down.”
Washington State: The Cougars snapped an eight-game losing streak in conference openers. Washington State’s last conference opening victory came in the 2007-08 season when the Cougars beat Washington 56-52 in Seattle.
Washington led by as many as 13 in the first half, only to see Washington State cut the lead to seven by halftime and surge in the opening moments of the second half. The Cougars scored the first 14 points of the half and built a 49-41 lead before Crisp finally knocked down the Huskies first shot of the half.
Washington State: The Cougars face Oregon State in Spokane on Wednesday.
Washington: The Huskies host No. 21 Oregon on Wednesday.