Washington State (3-4) matched up against a very athletic and talented St. Joseph’s (4-2) in the consolation bracket of the Old Spice Classic early Sunday afternoon. Though the Cougs had their moments, Coach Ken Bone‘s team remains a work-in-progress.
FINAL: ST. JOE’S 72 – WSU 67
In the opening 20-minutes, DaVonté Lacy got off to a sizzling start scoring 13-points in the first 10-minutes. Lacy was just about all of the WSU offense until St. Joe’s put a man to shadow him everywhere on the court.
Even when Lacy wasn’t scoring in the first half, his presence on the court appeared to buoy the confidence of the Cougs. They played under control and were better organized because of his leadership.
The size and athleticism of St. Joe’s players up front was the difference-maker to give them a 34-28 edge over the Cougs at halftime.
WSU allowed the Hawks to dominate inside surrendering 18-points in the paint creating a 12-point advantage. Time and time again WSU looked flat-footed by comparison when going after a rebound.
St. Joe’s dominated the glass outrebounding the Cougs 19-10 going into intermission.
Yet this game was there for the taking with 20-minutes remaining.
The second half saw both teams going on a series of runs because neither established any offensive rhythm.
WSU went up 39-38 for their first lead since midway in the first half of play at the 15:35 mark of the second half. The Cougs recaptured the lead by putting together a nice 14-4 run which included back-to-back 3-pointers by Que Johnson. Johnson was just 2-13 from behind the arc in the first six games of this sesason. Seeing him calmly knock down the pair of treys portends a bright future for Cougar basketball.
Over the next 10-minutes the lead went back and forth.
Lacy knocked down a smooth trey, for his 23rd point, to put his team up 61-55 with just under six minutes left.
The deciding run was put together by the Hawks over the next two minutes to put them on top 66-65.
With the game on the line, both clubs looked fatigued and played sloppy basketball. It was St. Joseph’s who made fewer mistakes to eventually eke out the victory.
Coach Bone and his staff have their work cut out to get this ball club ready for Pac-12 play. Lacy is only effective when there is some offensive support from his teammates. If he is the only threat to score, opponents will follow the lead of St. Joe’s and simply put a guy to face up on him all over the court. It was nice to see Lacy get another 25-points against the Hawks, but the rest of the starting lineup added just 20. That won’t get it done when WSU gets into their conference schedule.
The most likely candidate to share some of the scoring burden appears to be Johnson, who has shown steady improvement in every outing. He finished this one with 10-points on 4-of-10 shooting and was more aggressive at the offensive end of the court.
Jordan Railey could also be a great option because of his deft jump hook. Railey also upgrades the WSU defense when he’s on the floor, but must find a way to play under control. Foul troubles have him spending too much time on the bench.
It’s still early and there are five more games to get this thing figured out before the Cougs travel to Tucson to open conference play against No. 4 Arizona.
Though WSU doesn’t have an intimidating roster, they will be competitive once Pac-12 play rolls around if they continue to improve.
Washington State has yet to find an identity. Coach Bone has some components which indicate WSU can be a much better team than last season.