Glancing at the final score of the Pac-12 Tournament opening round game pitting cross-state rivals Washington State (13-19) against Washington (18-14) misleads.
One might surmise the Huskies eking out a victory by the slim margin of 64-62 made for a close, competitive basketball game mirroring five previous losses this season WSU compiled which were by 2-points or less. Sorry to say, that wasn’t the way this one went down in terms of play.
A consistent theme of men’s Cougar basketball this year has been play good ball for the first 35-minutes of regulation, lose confidence, then stun fans by losing the game. The opposite was the case Wednesday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
The guys in crimson uniforms might just as well been wearing pajamas. They looked emotionless. A listless collection of sleepwalkers who appeared lost through the entire first half.
Even after retiring to their locker room at intermission, WSU returned to the court from the break for the final 20-minutes clearly out of sorts.
For WSU fans watching the game, they had to be shaking their heads in disbelief. This edition of Cougar basketball earned a reputation for playing smart and with effort. Coach Ken Bone mentored his young roster well this season. What the Cougs lacked in physical talent, they made up for in effort and desire.
Many will make a strong case that UW Coach Lorenzo Romar had his team better prepared for tournament play. Hard to argue against that assertion looking back on the performance of Washington State.
Some will suggest this effort by the Huskies was their best of a disappointing season. Few would dispute this UW team pales when compared with previous purple jersey clad squads led by Coach Romar.
After Oregon eliminates Washington in the late game tonight, the greatest source of pride for a mediocre team will be the fact they beat WSU three times this year.
Heck, there was a word heard emanating from this guy time and time again Wednesday night.
Compounding the agony of watching the Cougs on a night when they weren’t playing their best basketball was the avalanche of verbiage spewed from Pac-12 Network color announcer Bill Walton. Walton is the poster boy for those who believe if you talk long enough, you’ll eventually say something substantive. Pitifully, Walton dominated the announcing team while failing to provide a single astute observation.
Getting back to what happened…
With 5:52 left in regulation, Brock Motum converted a layup easing his team back into the flow of the game and narrowing the score to 62-55 in favor of the Dawgs. Washington State was in the middle of a run where they outscored UW 15-0, eventually knotting the game at 62-62 with 2:51 remaining.
The Huskies managed a meager yet effective 2-0 run of their own with less than three minutes to play.
Washington State had the ball and a chance to either tie or win outright on their final possession. Following about 15-seconds of chaos, Motum attempted to flop into a defender while heaving a shot from behind the arc. The referees weren’t buying what the game’s leading scorer was selling.
Game to Washington.
As for Cougar basketball?
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
· Brock Motum led all scorers with 28 points. He was 11-for-19 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range while compiling a total of 1,530 career points, fifth all-time on the WSU career scoring list. Motum scored at least 11 points in all 32 games this season. Brock reached the 20-point plateau for the 12th time this season and the 24th time in his career.
· D.J. Shelton had a career-high 19 points eclipsing his previous high of 14 points accomplished twice.
· Royce Woolridge added 12 points. He scored in double figures in the last four games and 11 of the last 12 games.
· Mike Ladd led WSU with 6 rebounds but did not score for the first time this season.