Markelle Fultz finished a rebound short of the first triple-double for the Washington men’s program in a 79-74 loss to Washington State.

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Ernie Kent hates the term “Couged it” so much that he wants desperately to change its meaning.

“If I had my druthers, that phrase would be symbolic of a team that’s tough and hunts people down in the final minutes,” the Washington State men’s basketball coach said after the Cougars’ 79-74 upset win against Washington in a thrilling Pac-12 opener.

In sports lexicon, “Couged it” refers to a team’s inability of being unable to keep a lead or losing — often in dramatic and inexplicable fashion — in the final moments.


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Apologies to Kent, but WSU’s performance on Sunday against its cross-state rivals was the opposite of “Couged it.”

With less than three minutes left, the Cougars looked as if they were on their way to another defeat at the hands of the Huskies, who had won three of the previous meetings and nine of the past 11 matchups.

Washington’s Markelle Fultz drained a ridiculously impossible step-back three-pointer over Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson that gave the Huskies a 71-67 lead with 2:34 left and sent the crowd of 9,259 at Alaska Airlines Arena into a frenzy.

“Big shot,” Hawkinson said. “In the past, we might have gotten down and let that get into our heads or whatever. But we didn’t.”

Instead, the Cougars stole the momentum and raced past the Huskies to the finish with a 12-3 closing run that stunned the home crowd, while crimson-clad fans roared with approval.

WSU’s final big run began and ended with freshman guard Malachi Flynn, who tormented the Huskies with dribble-drive layups.

“He reminds me so much of Luke Ridnour,” Kent said.

“He’s more poised than Aaron Brooks when he was a freshman. I’ve said it for a while, for this offense to work you have to have a great point guard. … And he’s becoming that.”

While Hawkinson (26 points) and 7-foot center Conor Clifford (14) kept the Cougars afloat early, Flynn (16 points and six assists) made all of the big baskets down the stretch.

Flynn, the Tacoma native, answered Fultz’s three-pointer with a layup to cut WSU’s deficit to two points (71-69).

Hawkinson’s layup knotted the score at 71-71 and Fultz threw the ball away on the ensuing possession.

On WSU’s next trip, Flynn dribbled to the right side of the rim and blew past UW sophomore guard David Crisp for a layup that gave WSU a 73-71 lead with 48.6 seconds left.

Fultz missed another jumper and Flynn made another layup — this time victimizing UW forward Noah Dickerson who was unable to keep the speedy point guard out of the right side of the lane.

Flynn’s basket with 14 seconds remaining gave WSU a 75-71 lead.

“We didn’t guard the ball screen properly,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “There were breakdowns in the second half.

“We were supposed to send Malachi the other way. The help was the other direction and we ended up not being able to get there.”

After Crisp drained a late three-pointer, Flynn capped the scoring with a couple of baskets for the Cougars, which improved to 8-5 and 1-0 in Pac-12.

“This is huge,” said Kent, a third-year coach, when asked about the significance of the win. “We’ve been building for the last three years. But you can change the coach. And you can change the players, but always the last piece in rebuilding any program is changing the culture and that’s usually the most difficult thing.

“This is a huge step in the right direction. We will always look to this game and say that’s how you finish.”

Meanwhile, Washington (7-6, 0-1) squandered a 13-point lead in the first half and a brilliant performance from Fultz who finished with 26, points, 11 assists and nine rebounds — nearly becoming the first UW men’s player to notch a triple-double.

Even though Dickerson scored 19 points and Crisp had 11, the Huskies’ offense became too simplistic at the end as Fultz tried to carry them to a fourth straight victory.

After draining the three-pointer over Hawkinson, Fultz missed his final three shots and committed one of his six turnovers. He was 11 of 26 from the field and 3 of 8 on three-pointers.

Washington converted just one of its final five attempts.

Romar also bemoaned a foul disparity in which WSU was 17 of 21 on free throws while UW was 4 of 6.

“We did not play well enough to get it done,” he said. “Very unfortunate.”