The loss brings to an end the OSU playing careers of three seniors – Marshall Moses, Matt Pilgrim and Nick Sidorakis.
The 6-8 Pilgrim was sensational in the final game of his two-year Cowboy career. The Cincinnati native finished with a double-double, including a season-best 17 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.
"I told Matt that he had a great month (at the end of the season). He needs to have that mentality the rest of his life in whatever he's doing. Tonight he was very active. He got a little tired at times but that's because we were relying on him so much. He did a terrific job," said OSU head coach Travis Ford.
But Pilgrim's play was about the only thing that went right for the Cowboys against the Cougars. OSU's three leading scorers – Marshall Moses (14.5 points), Keiton Page (13.3) and Jean-Paul Olukemi (11.3) – were a combined 6-of 24 from the field and combined for only 17 points, which is 22 points under their average.
"It was a very tough (game for Marshall). He got in serious foul trouble ... but they wanted to stop Marshall Moses, no question," said Ford. "We knew they were going to play us a lot of zone but they probably ended up playing us 95 percent zone to try to negate him.
"As I told Marshall in the locker room, I'm very proud of how he played this year as a senior. Since May of last year he has really learned from a lot of his mistakes. He has come to practice every day ready to go, every game ready to go ... he's really done a great job of showing up every day and not having any distractions. I'm proud of him for that."
Washington State jumped out to a 9-0 lead behind Klay Thompson, the Pac-10's leading scorer this past season with a 22.2 point per game average. Thompson made a pair of three-pointers in the game's first 90 seconds and the Cougars took the early lead.
But the Cowboys battled back behind Pilgrim, who scored nine points in the game's first 10 minutes to lead a 19-8 run over the next eight minutes to give his team the lead. But the Cougars came right back and extended their lead to 38-29 at halftime.
OSU got within six at 40-34 on Page's three-pointer a couple of minutes into the second half but that's as close as the Cowboys would get the rest of the game.
"It was more about Washington State playing really well tonight. They made us pay for every mistake we made," said Ford. "We were very sluggish, very sluggish.
"We kept hanging in there, and it never really got out of hand. I kept telling our guys that at some point we're going to go on a spurt, at some point we're going to turn it on, and then we cut it to nine or so but we weren't playing the way we're capable of playing.
"But you've got to give Washington State credit. They played really well tonight, and it was more about them than it was us," added Ford.
Reger Dowell scored 12 points and Page finished with 11. But the junior from Pawnee, Okla., was just 3-of-13 shooting (and only made 2 of 12 from behind the arc). Olukemi made just 2 of 8 shots, and Moses was only 1-of-3 from the field before fouling out after playing just 15 minutes.
Thompson led the Cougars with 21 points. Washington State improves to 21-12 and will host Northwestern in a third-round NIT game later this week.
"I told the team that they need to hold their heads high. We had a good year, winning 20 games after going through a lot this year. The guys in that locker room have every reason to hold their heads high. They've battled, they've stuck together, they've continued to believe in each other, and continued to stay positive," said Ford.
The Cowboys finish 1-10 on the road with the lone victory being a 92-87 double overtime win over La Salle at the Palestra in Philadelphia on Dec. 4.
"It's very hard to explain but as I told our team, I hope they've learned as many lessons as I did this year. We've got to use those to being obsessed to getting better in the offseason," Ford added.
"We'll give the players a little break but for myself and the coaching staff there will be no break. For me, this next season starts tomorrow," said Ford.