Jan 2, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23) shoots the ball as he is defended by Washington State Cougars forward Junior Longrus (15) during the second half at McKale Center. Arizona won 60-25. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Washington State men’s basketball (7-6, 0-1 Pac-12) opened conference play Thursday night in Tucson against the No. 1 team in the nation, Arizona (14-0, 1-0 Pac-12). The ‘Cats looked pretty good. The Cougs didn’t.
FINAL: Ariz 60 – WSU 25
Coach Ken Bone knew his ball club was going to be facing a tremendous challenge the first weekend of Pac-12 play. As if it weren’t tough enough, the Cougs would have to somehow generate an upset of the best team on their schedule without regular two starters.
Playing with heart can be outmatched with athletic talent. That is exactly what happened at McKale Center.
Sluggish offense by the Cougs doesn’t begin to describe the start of this game.
Arizona jumped out to an early lead of 7-1 when Royce Woolridge converted one of two free throws at the 17:02 mark. The Cougs wouldn’t add to that lone point over the next 8-minutes of play.
That’s right. Junior Longrus converted one of two free throws with 8:55 left in the opening half of play to make it an 18-2 ball game.
Though he wouldn’t reveal game strategy during a post game radio interview with Bud Nameck, it was obvious Ken Bone felt the best chance his team had to win was to limit the number of possessions.
Fact is, Coach Bone was spot on in calling for his guys to run clock when they had the ball. Many were predicting Arizona might well score 100+points on WSU when their talented team would be playing at home in front of some of the best college basketball fans anywhere.
By slowing play, the Cougs minimized the impact of the Zona Zoo. They also limited Arizona to just 60-points, 15 below their season average.
But without contributions from Lacy and DKD, WSU looked awful when they had the ball. Time and time again they worked the ball around the perimeter to eat up clock. When they tried to run plays with about 10-seconds left on the shot clock, the ‘Cats overwhelmed the Cougs defensively.
On the rare occasion WSU pushed the ball upcourt after a Wildcat turnover, the results were embarrassing. Just before halftime a Cougar fast break effort was thwarted when 6-10 Josh Hawkinson took a pass and went to lay the ball in only to have his shot easily blocked.
It was 28-7 at the break. And that was as close as this game would get the rest of the way.
As if things weren’t bad enough for Coach Bone to manage, early in the second half Wildcat center Kaleb Tarczewski swung wildly at Jordan Railey in the paint. Railey was left reeling from a forearm shiver that may have re-arranged his dental work. It also sent the Cougar center to the locker room for tests. The 7-footer did return to the game with about 9-minutes to play and promptly had a layup attempt rejected.
"“We really, really, really struggled to score.”-WSU Coach Ken Bone"
Credit Arizona coach Sean Miller with assembling an outstanding roster and managing their play beautifully. Miller’s job of creating a game plan was simplified when the only WSU player other than Lacy to score in recent games is Que Johnson. In 23-minutes of play, Johnson was limited to taking just five shots, successfully converting one. He turned the ball over 4-times in route to scoring just 3-points.
Next up for Washington State is another quality Pac-12 team, the Arizona State Sun Devils, on Sunday afternoon at 3pm on ESPNU.
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- WSU’s 25 points are its fewest in a game since also scoring 25 at Idaho, Jan. 15, 1938
- Junior Longrus led the team in scoring for the first time in his career, finishing with 6-points.
- No Cougar scored in double figures for the first time this season, and the first in Bone era.
- WSU’s 7 first-half points are its fewest since at least the 2000-01 season. The Cougars had 9-points in the first half at Fresno State, Dec. 22, 2003.