Free-throw woes undermine Cougs -- again

PULLMAN -- Heartbreaking doesn't even begin to describe this one. And perhaps no one feels worse than sophomore forward Patrick Simon. His shot at a go-ahead 3-pointer did not even draw rim, but coach Ken Bone said there was no issue with Simon taking that shot. But it might not have mattered if the Cougars made their free throws during a 59-55 loss Saturday against Washington at Friel Court.

Simon had not entered the game to that point -- his only attempted shots on the evening had come during pre-game and half-time warm-ups. Regardless, with WSU trailing by a deuce and just seconds remaining, Bone called in No. 44. And he had a wipe-open look from 3.


WSU (14-14 overall, 6-10 Pac-12) now cannot finish better than eighth in the Pac-12, while UW (20-8, 13-3) remained in a first-place tie with California.

The play wasn't specifically designed for Simon, but he was unguarded.

"If he was wide open we told him to go ahead and shoot it," Bone said. "The other day in practice I'd bet he made 8-of-10. We in our program know what he's capable of doing because we see him every day. I told him if you're open, bury it and if we had the chance to run the same thing right now we'd do it and I think our teammates would trust that he would make the shot."

Junior Brock Motum, who led the team with 17 points, echoed Bone's statements.

"I wouldn't have anyone else shoot the ball," Motum said. "Pat's our best shooter by far. It was a good play, exactly how we drew it and he took the shot and he just missed it."

As for Motum, he was visibly upset following the Cougars second half meltdown at Friel Court. Mid-way through the second half following a monstrous dunk by Abe Lodwick, the team was seen dancing at mid-court and had all the confidence in the world.

There was no swagger or showboating in the media lounge less than an hour later.

Both Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers said as frustrated as they were in the loss, the team realizes they must continue to move forward and this was another example of them being able to compete with any team in the Pac-12.

"This game is not a death sentence for us," Lodwick said. "We understand where we are in the Pac-12 and we also understand that we have two more games left in conference play and we want to finish strong. We want to do whatever we can do to make some noise in the conference tournament."

Capers was named the player of the game by public address announcer Glenn Johnson after he finished with 14 points and six rebounds, but he also was frustrated as Motum following the loss.

"If we played soft and we gave up then I'd be real disappointed in this loss," Capers said. "The only reason I'm mad is because we lost -- that's my competitive nature. But other than that I felt like everybody who came into the game fought and you can't really ask for anything else."

AS FRUSTRATED AS the team was with the outcome, their anger can be directed square at their performance from the charity stripe. The Cougars consistently made their way to the line in the second half, only to have shots rattle in and out. The team was 11-of-12 in the first half, but the second half was completely different. It was what Bone described as a helpless feeling watching from the bench.

WSU was also 15 of 24 from the stripe in a 76-72 loss Feb. 16 versus Arizona, with several misses in the waning moments.

"Especially in the second half when they went 15-of-19 and we were 6-of-20 (from the line)," Bone said on Saturday. "We did what we felt we needed to do. We got to the line which was critical. I think we're one of the top two teams in the league in free-throw percentage but in the second half we didn't put them down."

  • It was the final home game for seniors Marcus Capers, Abe Lodwick, Charlie Enquist and injured Faisal Aden. Bone praised all four following the loss and said he was disappointed he couldn't send the four out with one last home win.

  • "They've been really a great part of the program," Bone said. "Great leadership and just kids who you could always depend on. Those are the kind of guys you want to go to battle with, support, and hopefully win games to allow them to really enjoy their last experience in Beasley. Tonight just didn't happen."

  • Despite a sudden snowfall that quickly covered the roads and made getting to the game an adventure, the Cougs still managed 9,325 in attendance.

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