Jan 5, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Ken Bone reacts to a call against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Since classes for spring semester haven’t resumed for Washington State, the Cougars (7-8, Pac-12 0-3) transferred their “home” date with No. 15 Colorado (14-2, Pac-12 3-0) to Spokane Wednesday night. Though the results for the Cougs in conference play were the same, the process was significantly different.
FINAL: Colo 71 – WSU 70
Credit Coach Ken Bone with implementing a solid game plan and having his guys ready to play.
Without the services of WSU leading scorer DaVonté Lacy, the team played some of their best basketball of the season. Conventional wisdom would suggest the Cougs would struggle to put up points with Lacy sidelined. Conventional wisdom would be wrong in this instance.
The Cougs brought a tremendous level of energy to the court and for much of the night looked to be playing with more confidence than the Buffs. Given the fact Colorado hasn’t been ranked in the Top 20 nationally since Chauncey Billups (third pick in the NBA draft) was terrorizing the Big 12 back in 1997 and coming off a victory over Oregon where they scored 100-points, they should have been the guys oozing confidence.
Royce Woolridge ran the Cougar offense as well as any point guard Ken Bone has put in his lineup over the past five seasons. Woolridge showed poise taking the air out of the ball to minimize opportunities for the Buffs to do what they do best…outstcore their competition. Colorado averages 78 points a game. WSU held them to 56 in regulation.
To make the case for just how well Royce handled the challenge of playing point guard, he dished out 11 assists while committing just one turnover in 42-minutes of action. If he can continue to build on this performance, things look a little brighter for Washington State in Pac-12 play.
Bone found scoring from a guy who has yet to consistently play up to his potential, Dexter Kernich-Drew. The junior Aussie enjoyed a career night leading all scorers with 24-points thanks to ridiculous accuracy from behind the arc. DKD was a sizzling hot 6-8 from downtown.
WSU led throughout most of the game providing fans with something to cheer about.
With about a minute and a half left in regulation, Buff reserve Xavier Talton was left open in the corner to calmly swished through a 3-point shot to put his team up 56-53. Both teams exchanged empty possessions over the next minute of play. WSU had what was likely their final chance with :27 left on the clock. When Bone saw his offense struggle he called a timeout with :10.3 remaining in regulation. He setup up a play to get the ball into the hands of Que Johnson, knowing Colorado would not allow DKD to beat them with his hot hand. Looking every bit the scorer he’s been touted to be, Johnson elevated and knocked down a clutch trey to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Colorado did what they do better than any team in the Pac-12. They got to the free throw line and made their opponent pay dearly. And that proved to be the difference in this game.
The aggressive offense of the Buffaloes earned them 38 free throw attempts, though they converted an uncharacteristically low percentage. By comparison, WSU shot just three (3) from the charity stripe in the entire 45-minutes of play. Some would say the officiating was unbalanced, but that was not the case. The Cougs were outscored in the paint 36-18 with 10 of those coming from breakaways following a turnover.
At the end of the day, the game was another conference loss for Washington State. Should they build on this performance, expect the Cougs to earn their first Pac-12 win Sunday afternoon in Pullman when they host Utah in Beasley Coliseum.
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- Dexter Kernich-Drew had a career-high 24 points. DKD’s previous high was 16 against Texas A&M, Nov. 20, 2012.
- Royce Woolridge had his first career double-double with a career-high 11-assists and 10-points. He had 6 of those assists in the first half against Colorado. His previous high was 7-0assists done against Buffalo, Dec. 21, 2012. The Washington State school record for assists is 15 accomplished by Donminic Ellison, Jan. 25, 1995.
- D.J. Shelton had his third double-double of the season and the fifth of his career, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
- The Cougars shot a season-best .565 (13-for-23) from beyond the 3-point arc.