Cougs' comeback effort goes for naught

TURNOVERS, MISSED SHOTS and an inability to make plays. That puts WSU's second half performance in a nutshell as they lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, 69-64 to Oregon State Wednesday. The Cougs put themselves in a position to win after battling back from an 16-point deficit in the first half, but the shots wouldn't fall down the stretch.

Brock Motum led the Cougars with 18 points, while senior Marcus Capers added 14 points and eight rebounds.

WSU jumped out to an early 44-38 lead in the second half and seemed to have all the momentum in the world. But things went downhill from there.

The Cougs ended the first half on a 31-14 run after trailing 24-8 and went into the break with a 39-38 lead. Marcus Capers and Reggie Moore had combined to platoon the Cougars from the dead combining for 15 points. D.J. Shelton had a spirited run on both ends of the court, the Cougs owned the paint and Moore also had eight of his 10 assists.

But in the second half everything flipped around. Even with OSU's Jared Cunningham struggling mightily (4 points, 1-8 from the floor), the Beavers got huge performances from their big men in the low post. Joe Burton and Devon Collier dominated in the second half and combined for 34 points and 10 rebounds. Burton was 5-7 from the floor, but more important was 5-6 from the FT line.

"They turned it into an inside game," WSU head coach Ken Bone said in a post-game interview. "They didn't shoot very well in the second half from outside but they adjusted and just pounded it inside. They had the advantage there today."

Collier had a game-high 19 points and added five rebounds to lead the way for the Beavers who will now face Washington tomorrow in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament.

"It reminded me of (UCLA's) Joshua Smith in Pullman, just getting the ball low and backing us down," Bone said of Collier. "We had a hard time matching up with him."

The biggest problem for the Cougars in the final 20 minutes was that they could not finish plays. After shooting 17-26 from the floor in the first half, the Cougs fell off completely going 7-25 in the second session.

Moore, who had seven points in the first half, struggled immensely from the floor. He finished 3-of-16 from the floor in 39 minutes of play, and was 1-of-4 from the 3-point line to finish with 10 points. He did dish out 10 assists.

"He (Moore) had a great look in the middle of the key when we needed one," Bone said. "Michael Ladd had a wide-open shot around the elbow. Brock had one around the rim and he might have gotten bumped but we have to be able to convert that and we missed a couple free throws that were critical. We had a few opportunities to put the ball in the basket in the last three minutes and we didn't do it."

The Cougs looked destined to be blown out by Oregon State early on, trailing 24-8 with 12:43 left. What brought the Cougs back was switching to a man-to-man defense. Prior to that, OSU's Ahmad Starks lit up the Cougs for four quick 3-point shots to propel the Beaver offense.

"I think just settling down, communicating on offense, and picking up intensity on the defensive end," Bone said on the team battling back. "We did a great job on Cunningham all night long and we struggled with Starks early on but they've got a team full of good players."

The Cougars fell to a 15-16 overall record and 7-11 in Pac-12 play. Bone said he remains hopeful that the team can compete in a post-season tournament and that his players remain hungry to keep fighting.

"I'm hoping for us to have an opportunity to continue our season in a tourney and at this point I don't care which one," Bone said. "We're pretty healthy and guys are getting along great. We got beat by a very talented team in Oregon State team but I think we can still go win some ball games."

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