Category Archives: WSU Men’s Basketball

WSU Falls to USC, Not a Top-Tier Team Yet

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics.

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics.

By Jamey Vinnick

WSU fought hard, but once again came up short against a better, more talented USC Trojans team. The Cougars came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first 3 and a half minutes, behind four quick three pointers. It wasn’t unlike USC to play a bad stretch, though, considering they were down by 10 at the half to Washington earlier in the week. USC started to get hot afterwards, though, and WSU went cold leading to a 38-33 USC lead at halftime. The Cougs kept the game close for most of the 2nd half, but had no answer for the perimeter game of Jonah Mathews and especially no answer for Chimezie Metu, who went for a career high 29 points en route to an 86-77 Trojan victory.

Metu’s day wasn’t totally surprising considering his skill, but it did provide some concern for WSU. Between Metu, and UCLA’s bigs T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh, the trio combined to go 34-42 from the field for 78 points in two games. While that is a testament to how good those three players are, it’s also a testament to the fact that the Cougs’ inside defense isn’t particularly strong. Josh Hawkinson is a fine defender, but he’s not strong enough or defensively sound to stick with players of those caliber. As for Robert Franks, he’s not nearly physical enough while Jeff Pollard isn’t big enough and Connor Clifford isn’t nearly fast enough. It’s one of a few things that proves that while WSU has improved by a country mile from last year, they are still not near the level of the Pac 12’s elite.

With the exception of Stanford and Utah, WSU has shown flashes of competitiveness in all of their conference losses so far this year. While UCLA pulled away from the Cougs towards the end, WSU held tight with the far more talented Bruins team led by Lonzo Ball. The same was true against Arizona the week prior, as the Cougs went punch for punch with the superior Wildcats team, until UA got hot and stretched the lead late. Against the mighty Oregon Ducks, the Cougars were tied at half and hung around for a good part of the second half until the Chris Boucher show started. WSU also had a great chance to beat Cal, but a horrible shooting day from the seniors led to a tough loss in Berkeley.

In those games, the better team pulling away at the end is what really separates the best of the best from the Cougars. After just one conference win last year, the Cougs have improved nicely, already winning four this year. The issue is, all four wins have come against the bottom feeders of the Pac. Oregon State is lost without Tres Tinkle, and UW has Markelle Fultz, Matisse Thybulle and a whole lot of nothing else. While WSU will take whatever wins they can, it’s a pretty telling story that all the wins are against teams lower on the totem pole than they are. With a couple extra pieces, though, and some more experience for their underclassmen, WSU is a team who could find themselves competing towards the top of the PAC in a couple years.

Men’s Basketball Preview: WSU vs. Arizona

By Nate Hanson

The Washington State Cougars (11-16, 2-11) look to the right the ship in a big way against #12 Arizona (22-4, 10-4) tomorrow in Tucson. The Cougs are on a 7 game losing streak, while the Wildcats have won 2 straight. Arizona won the previous meeting 79-65 in Beasley Coliseum.

The Cougs loss to Arizona State Wednesday resembled their blowout loss against UCLA just a few weeks ago. After a quick start, the team seemed to lack effort, especially on the defensive end. Arizona State shot 50 percent from the field against the Cougs. No matter what team you are, if you give up 50 percent shooting to you’re opponent, you will come out on the losing side.  Carrick Felix tore the Cougs apart inside with 23 point and 11 rebounds, while freshman sensation Jahii Carson added 21 of his own. The two combined to shoot 14-25 from the field. The Coug defense needs to regroup if they have a chance of stopping Arizona’s top scorers.

Solomon Hill was red-hot from beyond the arc in the first matchup. He hit six treys, accounting for his 18 points. Hill’s performance was symbolic for the Wildcats as a whole. Four players got into double figures (Hill, Lyons, Tarczewski and Ashley), and the team shot 47 percent from the field. Arizona is one of the best teams in the country at moving the ball around offensively until someone gets an open look. If the Cougs are going to have a shot in this game they need to keep Arizona under 40 percent shooting.

Offensively, the Cougs had success against Arizona. The team shot 41 percent from the field and had 4 guys in double figures, Motum, Shelton, Lacy and Woolridge. One of the few bright spots in PAC-12 play for the Cougs has been the offensive emergence of Royce Woolridge. It appears Woolridge is more comfortable playing in Head Coach Ken Bone’s system and he’s filling in for the lack of production of other Cougs. Woolridge had a career-high 36 points in the heart-wrenching loss to Oregon. He followed that performance with 16 against the Sun Devils on Wednesday. If Woolridge can get into the 20’s, and Brock Motum and Davonte Lacy get at least 15 each, the Cougs will have a chance.

It will be a tall task for the Cougs on Saturday. A lot has to go right, but if the Cougs are able to slow down Arizona and keep them under 70, then WSU should be right in the ballgame. If Arizona gets over 70, it could be another long game for Bone’s team. Game time is set for noon tomorrow and can be seen on Root Sports.

Men’s Basketball Reaction: WSU vs. Oregon

By J.T. Menard

In a thrilling and wild game last night at Beasley Coliseum, the Washington State Cougars (11-15, 2-9) narrowly fell to #23 Oregon (21-5, 10-3) in a 79-77 overtime defeat.

WSU was thinking upset from the very start, coming out of the gate strong and matching a pair of early
Oregon 3’s with their own. Oregon came out of the gate with a full-court press and the strategy was
initially successful at shutting down Brock Motum and forcing turnovers.

The Cougars quickly adjusted, as Royce Woolridge stepped up to fill the place of the injured Mike Ladd
and Motum’s cold shooting. Woolridge played out of his mind. Watching him last night was a
breathtaking spectacle for the approximately 5200 fans on hand for the game. Woolridge did it all; he
drove hard into the lane, going up for layups and drawing fouls. When the inside game wasn’t there, he
sank daggers from beyond the arc. He fed his teammates with open looks, came up with steals, and was stout on defense. Woolridge finished the night with a career-high 36 points, going 10-15 from the field and 6-9 from beyond the arc. He also sank 10 of his 11 free-throws, while chipping in five assists and three steals.

The Cougars quietly built a lead throughout the first half with the stellar play of Woolridge and the quiet
yet crucial contributions of D.J. Shelton and Dexter Kernich-Drew. The Cougars received a further boost
when Oregon center Tony Woods was ejected for a flagrant foul on Brock Motum. Woods delivered
an elbow to Motum’s head after an Oregon rebound. The foul wasn’t noticed by fans and officials alike,
and it took a while for officials to stop play after Motum went to the floor, writhing in pain. A video
review was undertaken with the end result being Woods’ ejection. From there it was all WSU, as they built an 18 point lead over Oregon. Oregon chipped that deficit back down to 11 at the half.

Oregon pulled themselves together during halftime, and just a few minutes into the second half, the
Cougars found themselves in a pitched battle instead of a runaway rout. E.J Singler, Carlos Emory and
Damyean Dotson began to heat up with help from Oregon’s top rebounder Arsalan Kazemi, who picked
up a number of offensive boards, giving Oregon a number of extra scoring opportunities.

The two teams battled back and forth for the duration of the half. Critical fouls on Motum and
Woolridge on 3-point shots gave WSU six free throw attempts late in the 2nd half, of which they made five, allowing WSU to stay within reach of Oregon.

The crucial moment came with 18 seconds left. WSU, down by 3, fouled, sending Oregon’s Johnathan
Loyd to the free throw line. Loyd, a career 59% free throw shooter, bricked both, giving WSU the ball
with precious few seconds remaining. The Cougars drove down the court and DaVonte Lacy made a
clutch three to tie the game up with 6 seconds remaining. Oregon just narrowly missed converting a
shot at the buzzer, sending it to overtime at Beasley.

Overtime did not go well for the Cougs. A beastly dunk by Carlos Emory off a steal seemed to
take some of the wind out of the Cougs’ sails. Oregon once again led by three with nine seconds
remaining when Royce Woolridge made a deep three to tie it up once again. Then, Dexter Kernich-Drew
inexplicably fouled E.J. Singler at midcourt as he tried to get one last shot off. Singler made both free throw attempts and Woolridge’s desperation half-court shot just missed, sealing the Cougars
defeat.

With the win, Oregon strengthens their claim at the top of the PAC-12 and WSU descends further
into the bottom of the conference.

WSU fought hard, but just couldn’t close it out. Congratulations are in order to Royce Woolridge for his
outstanding performance Saturday night.

The Cougs go on the road now, for games against ASU, Arizona, and Washington. They return to Pullman on March 6th, where they will take on UCLA. As always, you can catch all the home action on KUGR Radio.

Men’s Basketball Preview: WSU v. Oregon

By J.T. Menard

After suffering a close loss to Oregon State, the Washington State Cougars (11-14, 2-10) look to rebound against #23 Oregon (20-5, 9-3) as the two teams battle it out this weekend at Beasley Coliseum. The Cougars have struggled this season to finish close games, losing to Texas A&M, Oregon St., and #5 Gonzaga –among others– by the narrowest of margins.

The Oregon Ducks on the other hand, have had a stellar season so far, and are looking to close out the season on a high note and secure an NCAA Tournament bid after making it to the NIT quarterfinals last year. The Ducks fell into a bit of a rut, losing three consecutive games to conference opponents Stanford, Cal, and Colorado, but bounced back with wins over Utah and Washington.

Meanwhile, the Cougars, coming off the loss to Oregon St. have dropped five straight games. The
Cougars have a tough test ahead of them if they want to stop the skid. The Ducks are a tall, physical
team that spread the ball around well, with five players averaging 10 points or more per game. The
Cougars will need stout defense and some offensive fireworks from Brock Motum, Royce Woolridge,
and DaVonte Lacy.

Game time is 4:00 today at Beasley Coliseum. If you can’t attend the game you can catch the action on KUGR Radio.

Men’s Basketball Reaction: WSU vs. OSU

By Michael-Shawn Dugar

After a tough comeback in the second half the Cougars (11-14, 2-10) fell short to Oregon State
(13-12, 3-9) 67-66 after a free throw by Langtston Morris-Walker put the Beavers up four with
only a few seconds left. A DaVonte Lacy desperation three-pointer at the buzzer brought the
final score to within one. The Cougars weren’t exactly playing with their complete arsenal as
the team was without their starting point guard, Mike Ladd, who was out with a left knee injury. The
impact of losing Ladd for this game was clear early on.

The Cougars struggled to find offense early on as Royce Woolridge and Brock Motum
accounted for most of the team’s points in the first half. Hot three-point shooting for the Beavers
gave them a halftime lead of 33-26 and the Cougars were struggling to keep the lead within
single digits. It seemed that every time the Cougars would get a clutch bucket the
Beavers would counter almost immediately with a score of their own. With the Beavers shooting
over 41 percent from long distance in the first half, the Cougars were lucky to only be down
seven.

In the second half the Cougars came out with some intensity and quickly cut the deficit to five,
but an early Beaver timeout changed the game. Craig Robinson’s team came out in a three-quarter court press after the timeout, which flustered the Cougars. The Beavers forced several Cougar turnovers in a row and extended their lead to 15 about halfway through the second half.

The Cougars needed someone to step up and Lacy, who finished with a career high 27, answered
the call. With a barrage of three-point shots, mostly by Lacy, the Cougars were able to climb
back into the game and get within two with a score of 62-60.

Unfortunately once again, the Cougars were unable to close the game out when it mattered the
most. Down three with the ball and less than 30 seconds left, the Cougars were unable to get any
quality looks at the basket because Oregon State had several fouls to give and decided to use
them to get the Cougars out of rhythm. This strategy nearly worked to perfection as the Cougars
couldn’t run any of their plays effectively. WSU settled for a long contested step-back shot from DJ Shelton that banked off the glass and clanked off the front of the rim.

Head coach Ken Bone said he was happy with Shelton’s shot because with the intentional foul strategy the Beavers implemented, time was against them and Shelton had a height advantage over his defender.

With this loss the Cougars fall to last place in the Pac-12 conference with No. 23 Oregon coming into town this Saturday. You can listen to the game at 4 on KUGR.org!

Men’s Basketball Preview: WSU vs. OSU

By Kyle Sherman

Three weeks ago a matchup against the Oregon State Beavers looked like a potential turning point
for this year’s Cougar men’s basketball team. After blowing a ten point halftime lead against the #16
Oregon Ducks three days prior, the Cougs won a tough matchup on the road, prevailing over the Beavers
to the tune of 71-68. Not the prettiest of wins by any stretch of the imagination but road wins in the
PAC-12 are tough to come by and for a team that had lost so many close games earlier in the season, it
was nice to finally pull one out.

Fast forward three weeks and little has changed for the Cougs who are near the bottom of the conference standings at 11th place. Perhaps even more frustrating for the Cougs is more close losses and inconsistent play. Of the 13 Coug losses, eight have come by less than 10 points. To make matters worse, the Cougs have led in the second half of 10 of those losses.

Make no mistake, both of these teams need this win and the seats of both head coaches are getting
warmer. Cougar head man Ken Bone is in the fourth year of his seven year contract and has been the
subject of much criticism from Cougar nation.

The keys to the game are going to be pretty simple for the Cougars. It all starts with the defense. The
Cougars have struggled to score on offense this season so they need to step up on the defensive end
in order to stay in ball games. During the current four game losing streak the Cougs have given up an
average of 72.5 points on 48% shooting while only averaging 63.5 points on 40% shooting themselves.
Defensive stops will be key for the Cougs.

Next, the Cougs need to take good shots. On the season, the team is taking an average of 20 three point
attempts (3rd most in conference) while only making 33.4% of those shots. This tells me that the Cougs
are settling for too many long jumpers, many of which have been contested. In order to have a chance
in this game the Cougs need to move the ball around and find the open man. This leads to my next
point.

The Cougars need to work the ball inside. For a team that wants to take so many 3’s, an inside-out
game will help open up the shooters. Brock Motum has great awareness and is more than capable of
getting the ball back out to shooters like Davonte Lacy or Dexter Kernich-Drew, or scoring in the
paint himself. Some drives to the hoop will also help free up the jump shooters. So, Mike Ladd and Royce Woolridge, who are both capable and putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim, need to be more aggressive.

On defense the Cougars need to close out on shooters. Oregon State has good shooters and they are
led on offense by Roberto Nelson who averages 17.1 points per game. The Cougs also need to clean the
glass against a very good rebounding team, led by Eric Moreland’s 10.5 rebounds per game.

The Cougars have a very good chance of getting the season sweep of the Beavers as long as they stay
mentally strong and avoid the long scoreless stretches that have plagued them at times this season.

You can follow all the action at 7 pm on KUGR.org.

Men’s Basketball Reaction: WSU vs. UCLA

By Nate Hanson

The season continues to spiral downward for the Cougs. A win against UCLA could have marked the beginning of Coach Bone’s team salvaging their season. It was not to be though. The Bruins (18-6, 8-3) defeated Washington State (11-13, 2-9) 76-62 in a game that was over before halftime. Coug fans can’t be surprised. The Bruins are the best offensive team in the PAC-12 and WSU is now 2-54 all-time on the road versus UCLA.

In my preview I said Washington State needed to hold the Bruins around 60 points in order to have a chance to win. Obviously, this did not happen. Not only did the Bruins score 76 points, they shot a season-high 62 percent from the field. So much for good on-ball pressure. Four Bruins had double figures last night. Shabazz Muhammad silenced critics with another stellar 17 point performance. Jordan Adams added 14, Kyle Anderson had 12 and Travis Wear finished with 11. Only one player for the Bruins, David Wear, shot below 50 percent from the field. UCLA blitzed the Cougs from the start. WSU was able to keep close for the first ten minutes due to Davonte Lacy’s sharp outside shooting. The rout was on though once the shots stopped falling.

Also, I said the Cougs needed to maintain the offensive balance they established during their previous two contests. Brock Motum led the way once again with 17 points, and Royce Woolridge provided good minutes with 16 points. Lacy finished with 10 points, but those came at the beginning of the game. Mike Ladd struggled as he shot 2 for 9 from the field and finished with 5 points. DJ Shelton had another solid game with 5 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Why the big man has led the Cougs in assists the last two games is beyond me.

Aside from poor defense, turnovers doomed the Cougs. WSU had 19 turnovers, one short of tying a season-high. UCLA turned those 19 turnovers into 20 points. To pull off an upset teams must be crisp and take care of the pumpkin. The Cougs were everything but clean and crisp. In fact, they looked uninspired and overmatched.

The Cougs return home to take on the Oregon schools this week. They will host Oregon State Wednesday night at 7 in a battle of cellar dwellers. WSU defeated the Beavers earlier this season 71-68 in Corvallis. You can catch all the action on KUGR.org!