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In an atmospheric arena at the McCauley Center where Arizona could have been the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament, the Wildcats instead surrendered first place to a team that was picked to finish 10th.

Washington State handed Arizona its first loss of the season at McKale, 77-74, when Caleb Love scored 27 points but was forced to make a foul shot at halfcourt as time expired.

The loss drops Arizona to 20-6 overall and 11-4, putting the Wildcats half a game behind the Cougars (21-6 and 12-4). While the teams are tied in the loss column, WSU will own a split between them as the Cougars beat Arizona on Jan. 13 in Pullman.

The Cougars, who swept the season series against the Wildcats, played with composure throughout the game, which went mostly within two possessions.

With the game tied at 71 heading into the final minute, the Wildcats’ defense forced WSU’s Jaylen Wells to miss an errant 3-pointer. After Omar Ballo pulled down the rebound, Love drove in for a try and drew a foul.

Love hit the follow-up to make it 74-71, but after Miles Rice missed a 3-pointer, Wells hit a fadeaway 3 from the left corner when Johnson was fouled.

The 3-pointer tied the game at 74 with 24.6 seconds left and prompted UA to call a timeout, after which Wells hit a free throw to give WSU a 75-74 lead.

With 9.3 seconds left on the UA’s possession, Jones’ attempt to Love went wide and the ball went wide, giving Arizona a comeback. Jaden Bradley passes to Love and passes to Keshad Johnson – but Love drives to the basket, deflects the ball and slides in. WSU then inbounded Wells, who fouled out and hit both free throws to give WSU a 77-74 lead.

As Wells stepped off the line, one of the Glo-Sticks went onto the court and fans were warned that throwing the items on the court could result in a technical foul, an announcement that was met by Bo.

After a Wells punt, the Wildcats had 2.4 seconds to make a shot. Keelan Boswell passed to Love at the half court line but missed the last second 45-footer.

Wells shot just 41.9% but finished with 27 points for the Cougars, who had just nine turnovers and just one shutout. Arizona shot 44.8% but was just 5 of 18 from 3-point range and made just 17 of 27 free throws.

Arizona led by one point with 2:39 left, but Wells hit a fadeaway 15-footer late in the shot clock to give WSU a 71-69 lead with 1:56 left before Johnson made a short jumper at the left baseline with 91 seconds left.

Trailing 34-33 at halftime, Arizona used defense to set up two lay-up dunks from Johnson to take a 43-39 lead three minutes into the second half.

Ballou first blocked a shot from Isaac Jones, allowing Johnson to dunk from Love at 38. Later, Johnson blocked Jones by setting up a dunk of his own, which led to another alley-oop pass. Johnson crushed Love as he ran to the right from the rim.

But when WSU went on a 10-1 run to take a 57-51 lead with 9 minutes left and a 3-pointer from Love brought the Wildcats within two points, UA showed its grit again as it often melted down other opponents: Keshad Johnson ran behind WSU guard Miles Rice to close out the fast-break layup. But WSU forward Kymany Houinsu picked it up and beat him.

Haunus’ dunk gave WSU a 60-55 lead, but Cougar forward Isaac Jones made his third and fourth fouls on consecutive layups, the first by fouling out and the second by hitting two free throws while defending Johnson to give UA a brief 61-60 lead. WSU’s Jaylen Wells later hit a 3-pointer to give WSU a 67-63 lead, but another layup from Love put the Wildcats ahead 68-67 going into the final media timeout with 2:39 left.

Love scored 17 points in the first half, but Arizona trailed WSU 34-33 at halftime.

Arizona and Washington State entered the game separated by just half a game in the Pac-12 tournament, and as the game quickly reflected the rivalry between the two teams, the McCulley Center was given red glow-sticks to a near-capacity vote before the game.

After URA committed three turnovers in the first four minutes, the Cougars set the tone immediately, taking a 9-8 lead at the end of the first media period. WSU led by as many as seven points, 31-24 with 3:54 left, but the Wildcats scored six straight to pull within 31-30 with 2:18 left.

Love then hit a 25-footer to give UA a 33-32 lead with 47 seconds left, and the Mackay Center crowd was on its feet, waving red glow sticks placed on every seat before the game. WSU’s Andre Jakimowski picked up a foul by Pele Larson with 22 seconds left and hit both free throws to give the Cougars a 34-33 lead.

Love had a chance to give Arizona the lead heading into halftime with two seconds left on his last 3-point attempt off Rim.

Love shot 5-for-11 from the field, 2-of-7 3-pointers and hit all five free throws in the first half. Arizona shot 44.8% from the field as a team, but made just 2 of 10 3-pointers.

The Cougars, who beat the Wildcats 73-70 on Jan. 13 in Pullman, shot just 39.4% but matched the Wildcats’ 18 points, as their defensive turnovers made it difficult for Arizona to penetrate.

Arizona outshot WSU 21-17 but committed eight turnovers in the first half and hit just 5 of 10 free throws overall, with center Omar Ballo and forward Keshad Johnson both missing.