When Washington State (9-20, 2-15 Pac-12) took the floor Thursday night to host USC (11-19, 2-15) in their next-to-last regular season game, they had their best chance to produce momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament next week. You’d need to do a Google search to come up with the last time either team won a conference game.
Seemingly undaunted by the Trojans jumping out to an early 10-2 lead, WSU showed energy and purpose over the course of the first half.
The Cougs put together a nice 14-5 run to take their first lead of the evening after freshman Que Johnson composed himself and calmly knocked down a 3-pointer to put his team up 16-15.
By the end of the first 20-minutes, Washington State headed into the locker room leading 36-35. Fittingly, Johnson canned another long-range jumper to put the Cougs up just before time expired.
WSU began the second half with another nice run to build up their largest lead of the game at 44-36.
Coach Ken Bone had his guys in synchronous rhythm, playing team basketball a little under 3-minutes into the second half.
When Jordan Railey was fouled near the hoop earning a trip to the line, it appeared the Cougs were more than capable of defending their home court. Railey’s two missed free throws would prove to be emblematic of how this game would conclude. His second attempt didn’t draw iron.
Over the next 10-minutes of play, USC was allowed to fire up one uncontested shot after another and put together a 25-6 run to end their 10-game losing streak.
Once WSU fell behind they weren’t able to play with any sense of urgency in their half-court offense.
“I thought a couple of kids we needed on the floor just looked fatigued and I thought they played fatigued,” conceded Ken Bone after the game.
Compounding the struggle to come from behind, the Cougs failed to apply a measure of defensive pressure seemingly offering up an invitation to USC to run time off the clock when they had possession.
Another loss exacerbating the depths Cougar men’s hoops has sunk this season.
With fans staying away in droves from what takes place in Beasley Coliseum, Cougar football remains the primary focus around Pullman. Attempting to attract attention on campus, there will be a dunk contest Saturday to determine which player on the current WSU football roster has the best skills in the “fine art” of jamming. Sound like fun? You’ll have to show up for the game to be the final judge.
Thursday night WSU snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
“No doubt. This was a great opportunity. At times we played good basketball, but not good enough to get the job done.”
– WSU Coach Ken Bone
Without the potential boost in team confidence, Bone doesn’t have much time to prepare his team to take on a very talented UCLA team for the regular season finale.
“It’s always harder to come back every day and keep fighting and battling when you get beat. No doubt about it.”
That said, Ken Bone and his staff are focused on what they would like to accomplish between last night and an 8pm tipoff on Friel Court Saturday night.
“I want these guys to be able to end their season on as high a note as possible. Playing as good basketball as possible. Competing well. Staying together as a team. That’s what’s most important to me at this time.”
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- DaVonté Lacy had his first career double-double as he led WSU with 20-points. he’s scored in double figures in all 9-games since his return from injury and reached the 20-point plateau for the 11th time this season. Lacy had a career high 10-rebounds.
- D.J. Shelton finished with 11-rebounds and 11-points, marking his 11th double-double of the season, the 12th of his career.