Cougars' collapse on boards thwarts upset bid

THERE IS NO debate that it provided a momentum swing. But the technical foul assessed against Washington coach Lorenzo Romar during the second half of Washington State's 75-65 loss Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena hardly was the most significant factor in the Cougars' loss.

That would be defense.

Specifically, rebounding. Washington entered the game as the top rebounding team in the Pac-12 and it showed as they 46-24 rebounding advantage.

The Cougars (9-8 overall, 1-4 conference) played about as well as imaginable -- with the exception of rebounding -- during the first half when UW, which was stymied by multiple zone defenses, shot just 9 of 32 from the field. WSU, led by Brock Motum's 5 of 5 shooting, converted 12 of 26 field goals. Motum scored 13 of his 17 points during the first half.

That shooting disparity should have given the Cougars a double-digit halftime advantage. Instead, WSU led just 31-25 because the Huskies took advantage of their rebounding dominance to draw fouls.

"Fortunately they have not been able to hit shots," WSU coach Ken Bone said during a halftime television interview. "Our guys have had good focus on where their shooters are."

That remained the case until there was 12:16 minutes left in the game when Romar drew a technical foul after guard Terrence Ross, who scored a career-high 30 points, was assessed with an offensive foul. Senior guard Faisal Aden, who finished with a team-high 18 points, converted both free throws to give the Cougars a 47-37 lead.

"He inspired his team and inspired the crowd," Bone said in a postgame radio interview. "They all kind of fed off that."

The Huskies dominated the game from that point. UW (11-6, 4-1) took its first lead of the second half, 50-49, when Darnell Gant scored on a dunk with 8:48 remaining.

Ross finished a 26-6 run when Ross hit a 3-pointer to give his team a 66-56 lead with 5:15 left. Despite playing without top outside shooter C.J. Wilcox, who shoots 44 percent from beyond the arc, the Huskies hit 7 of 13 3-pointers during the second half. WSU made just 2 of 11 -- with one coming less than two minutes into the second half when freshman DaVonté Lacy hit a 3-pointer and completed a rare four-point play when he was fouled in the process.

"That's a 15-point difference," Bone said.

It was a surge that the Cougars were not able to withstand. But limiting the Huskies from myriad third- and fourth-opportunity shots would have prevented some of that. UW had 22-4 edge on offensive rebounds.

"They got more aggressive and are a little quicker and bigger than we are," Bone said. "That's pretty obvious."

He has maintained since the beginning of the season that rebounding would be an issue for his team, which is undersized and lacks experience in the post, but Bone did not have a specific solution afterward.

"It looked like we had players around the ball," he said. "It's hard for me to say what we did wrong until I see the video."

  • Bone slipped and fell during the second half as he was trying to call a timeout during a scramble for the ball.

    "I'm so old my pride doesn't matter much anymore," he quipped.

  • WSU junior guard Mike Ladd did not play because of a reoccurring right thumb injury.

  • The Huskies defeated the Cougars for the 100th time on their home court. WSU has won 35 road contests versus UW.

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