Shelton becoming long-range threat for Cougs?

PULLMAN -- Clinging to a 53-51 lead with the shot and game clock winding down, D.J. Shelton held the ball at the top of the key. Nobody else was open. The junior's 6-foot-10-inch frame might indicate a drive to the hoop. Shelton had other ideas.

Instead of panicking, the Rialto, Calif. native calmly lifted and knocked down a three with a hand in his face. Two possessions later, D.J. Shelton drove unabated through the lane for an easy lay-in to extend WSU's lead to 60-53 against the visiting Idaho Vandals. Shelton then capped his offensive outburst with a nifty spin to the hoop to extend WSU's lead back to seven.

The seven quick points was all WSU needed in their 64-55 win against their border rivals.

Shelton finished with 14 points and six rebounds, converting six of his eight field goal attempts and collecting six rebounds.

He also made both shots from beyond-the-arc.

This all came from a guy who didn't attempt a single three-pointer last season. Shelton is 5-for-8 from downtown seven games into the 2012-13 season. He entered the game averaging just 6.5 points-per-contest.

WSU head coach Ken Bone praised Shelton's marksmanship early in the year. Wednesday's post-game conference was no different.

"Well, he can shoot," Bone said. "He doesn't shoot a lot of them obviously but he's a pretty good three-point shooter. He's been telling me that for a long so he's starting to prove it."

Idaho head coach Don Verlin – still stubbornly sporting his trademark 80's mustache – apparently didn't get the memo about the Cougars' breakout big man.

"I didn't think D.J. Shelton could beat us from three but he did tonight," he said. "That was obviously a huge shot. You got to give them credit."

Bone sounded equally impressed with Shelton's aggressiveness. The head coach said Shelton's development is a product of more playing time.

"He did a really good job. He was under control and made big shots at a critical time," Bone said. "He's growing as a player.

"The way he was shooting and the way he played tonight – I was fine with him taking that shot," he said. "We don't have a lot of great shooters out there… the way he was playing this evening I was fine with him looking for his shot and I like the fact he was confident enough to shoot it."

Shelton said post-game the game-clinching trey came on a play designed to go elsewhere. He scanned the floor trying to find open cutters before taking advantage of his sagging defender. When Brock Motum – who finished with a season-best 26 points and nine rebounds – couldn't dodge a double-team, Shelton decided it was his turn to knock down a critical three. Eight days earlier, Elston Turner nailed a NBA-distance bomb as time expired to send the Cougars to a 55-54 loss to Texas A&M.

Shelton was all smiles after returning the favor.

"It was just mainly being as aggressive as possible and trying to make the smart play," he said.

  • Motum converted 11-of-20 field goal attempts but couldn't knock down any jumpers from three-point range. Motum has two treys seven games into the season. He entered Wednesday night as the team leader in scoring (16 ppg).

  • Dexter Kernich-Drew was stellar against the Vandals. A pleasant surprise in non-conference play, "DKD" dropped five-of-seven buckets, scoring 15 points and dishing four assists in 34 minutes of action. The redshirt sophomore also played stellar defense on a night the Cougars held Idaho to 41.5 percent shooting.

  • WSU turned the ball over just four times against the Vandals. The win pushed them to 4-3 in non-conference play.

  • Royce Woolridge had a night he probably wants to flush as quickly as possible. After scoring a season-high 14 points against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Saturday, the Kansas transfer went 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-4 from the three-point line. WSU shot just 45.6 percent from the field but converted just three-of-15 from beyond-the-arc.

  • WSU plays Saturday night at Beasley against the Portland Pilots (7:30 p.m, TV: Pac-12 Networks) before hosting Gonzaga next Wednesday.

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