Saturday Night Fight Decided In Overtime


It has been a familiar refrain for Washington State Cougar (11-15, 2-11) men’s basketball this season. The team plays hard, plays all out for at least 40-minutes then in the end pads off the court in defeat. Saturday night in Pullman was no different.

One of the top teams in the Pac-12, No. 23 Oregon (21-5, 10-3), used a combination of experience and swagger to earn an overtime victory at the expense of the Cougs by a final score of 79-77.

There were numerous notable moments in Beasley Coliseum.

For example, crafty WSU senior Brock Motum got under the skin of Duck center Tony Woods who retaliated by sneaking behind the Aussie and landing a forearm shiver to the base of the skull. A dazed Motum staggered to the locker room to collect himself. A humiliated Woods agonized over his fate while officials discussed the situation. After several minutes of deliberation, Woods was ejected and dispatched to the visitor’s locker room.

The Cougar defense completely flummoxed Oregon in the first half forcing them into bad shots and an uncharacteristic 33% conversion mark. WSU held a comfortable 38-27 lead at intermission.

Offensively, Cougar sophomore Royce Woolridge exploded offensively for a game-high and career-high 36 points on 10-15 shooting. As good as Woolridge was knocking down shot after shot, he did a nice job running the show for Coach Ken Bone. Unfortunately there was little support from the rest of the Cougs who shot just 29.7% over the course of 45 minutes of basketball.

Many will decide to latch on to a mental lapse by Dexter Kernich-Drew who intentionally fouled one of Oregon’s best free throw shooters with just a couple of ticks on the clock in overtime and the scored tied 77-77. Credit EJ Singler with poise after he made both freebies to avert the chance of a second overtime period.

Make no mistake, this was another Pac-12 war on Friel Court. Both teams played physical ball battling for victory.

Of all the notable moments Saturday night, perhaps those decisive free throws by Oregon’s Singler will be the lasting impression.

For most who have retained any interest in Cougar basketball, they will look up the score from Saturday night, register another loss and shake their head.

If you are a die hard fan hoping for a better won/loss record from Washington State men’s basketball, your patience may be rewarded next season. The two seniors on the current roster are good players, but not the heart of the team at either end of the floor. There’s no reason to believe this squad isn’t going to surprise some over the final five conference games before heading to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament.

Guys like Woolridge, DaVonté Lacy, DJ Shelton and Kernich-Drew have steadily improved each game. They all know what it takes to play hard from the opening tap to the final buzzer. The final lesson they must learn is how to win close ball games.

Cougar Notes:
· Royce Woolridge scored a career 36 points…he’s the first Cougar to reach the 30-point plateau this season, while his 36 is the most by a WSU men’s basketball student-athlete since Klay Thompson scored 43 points against Washington, March 10, 2011 in the conference tournament. Woolridge scored 22 of his points in the first half, the most since Klay Thompson scored 23 in the first half at California, Feb. 13, 2010…the first Cougar to reach 20 points in a first half since then.
· D.J. Shelton was 1 point shy of his second career double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
· Brock Motum finished with 12 points…he has reached double figures in all 26 games this season…26-straight games in double figures.
· Motum added 3 rebounds…he got his 500th career rebound, becoming the 12th Cougar men’s basketball student-athlete to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in his career (1,396 points and 500 rebounds).
· Walk-on freshman Bryce Leavitt had a career high 5 points…his previous high was 4 points…he played 19 minutes…played 44 minutes total in the last two games.
· The team’s second-leading scorer, Mike Ladd, did not play due to a left knee injury for the second-straight game.