Washington State (5-4) showed flashes of a team which can compete in the Pac-12 with their win over Pepperdine (6-5) in front of a small contingent of fans in Beasley Coliseum Sunday evening.
FINAL: WSU 78 – Pepperdine 61
The Cougs jumped out to 10-0 lead by showing intensity and Cougar pride.
With finals over for students and more than half of Pullman having left town for the holidays, it was up to the players to bring their best to the hardwood. Regardless of how things went, fans weren’t going to provide much energy.
For the first 20-minutes of play, the Cougs controlled the game despite some curious offense.
When junior Royce Woolridge was on the floor, there was decent movement to create open shots. However, too often WSU was impatient running their motion offense and settled for long-range bombs.
If the Cougs were consistently knocking them down from outside, you could understand why they pretended to be a perimeter shooting ball club.
Facts don’t lie.
Washington State hoisted up nearly half of their shot attempts from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half yet converted just 3 of 13.
When Woolridge was resting on the bench the shots from downtown were the result of the shot clock winding down more than anything else. And there’s where this team might be in trouble come conference play.
Fortunately for Coach Ken Bone, there is still time to establish a rotation that will maintain continuity on both ends of the court. Not a lot of time, grant you.
No question Coach Bone was trying to build the confidence of guys who might take some of the scoring burden off DaVonté Lacy. Lacy has proven he is an effective offensive player during this non-conference segment of the schedule. Without other scoring options, Pac-12 opponents will simply focus on Lacy to stifle the Cougs ability to put the ball through the hoop.
“Teams are harder to guard when you have three, four or five weapons instead of one big-time weapon,” explained Coach Bone. “Then teams can key on that guy. (Pepperdine) did a good job of guarding DaVonté. Royce and some others stepped up to carry the (scoring) load.”
When it comes to creating shots, Woolridge can take over a game when playing with confidence. He led WSU with a season-high 20 points, going 7-for-10 from the field and the fourth time in his career scoring 20 or more points.
Highly regarded redshirt freshman Que Johnson has shown steady improvement on offense and sustained his evolution toward becoming a Pac-12-caliber player last night. Que was looking to score against the Waves. He shot selection was excellent going 6 for 11 from the field. Two of those misses were from close range after putting a move on his defender to get open. Steady gain in confidence will turn Johnson into what the Cougs need…a legit scorer.
Inside play last night matched up former UCLA forward Brendan Lane against the Cougs transfer big man Jordan Railey. Railey got the best of the matchup when he was on the floor. Once again the WSU 7-footer was whistled for silly fouls and spent too much time watching from his courtside seat. When he’s in the game WSU is a much better team. Railey deters opponents from attempting to work the ball inside, forces guys to change their shots and is a serviceable rebounder.
But if this Cougar team is going to compete in conference play, they won’t be able to get away with the lackluster performance they started the second half with. Deficient of energy, intensity and cohesion they began the game with, Washington State allowed Pepperdine to look like a WCC powerhouse instead of the predicted cellar dweller experts have them pegged to.
With plenty of basketball left to play, the Waves closed the gap to 63-57 at the 6:45 mark. Pepperdine was also in a position to better control the boards and drive the lane. About a minute earlier Railey wasted his fifth personal and was sentenced to the bench for the remainder of the game.
Rather than generously allowing Pepperdine to make a game of it, WSU picked up the pace and cruised to their fifth win of the year.
Leading the way for the Cougs was Woolridge. “He just continues to pick his times to attack,” noted Bone with regard to Woolridge seizing control of the contest for WSU.
Though hampered by a sore wrist, Woolridge provided the on-court leadership needed for this team to be successful. “He needs to give that wrist a rest,” said Bone. “I think that will help his shooting.” The wrist injury dates back to the Gonzaga game “when he fell really hard (in the) second half.”
Freshman Josh Hawkinson provided useful minutes down the stretch replacing Railey. He grabbed 5 rebounds, blocked a shot and used quick hands to make a steal in 13-minutes of play.
“He’s a freshman, but he’s pretty poised,” remarked Bone of Hawkinson’s play during post-game interviews. “The fact he continues to rebound well per-minute-played is impressive.”
The Cougs will play their next game in Kennewick this coming Wednesday at 7pm in the Toyota Center when the “host” Division II San Francisco State (4-2) out of the CCAA conference. WSU best not take the Gators lightly as they gave a pretty good St. John’s team all they could handle in an 82-80 loss in an exhibition game to ready themselves for the season.
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- DaVonté Lacy had his streak of 10-straight games with double-figure points and every game this season snapped, as he finished with 9 points.
- Jordan Railey had a career-high 3 blocked shots, all in the first half, and scored in double figures for just the second time in his career finishing with 10 points and 5 rebounds.
- WSU shot .536 (30-for-56) from the field against Pepperdine, their best shooting percentage this season.
- The Cougars had a season high for steals in any half with 8 steals in the first half.