NCAA rules Johnson ineligible to practice

THE GOOD NEWS surrounding Washington State's men's basketball team was short-lived. Following the Cougars' first Pac-12 road win Saturday against Oregon State, coach Ken Bone revealed during his Tuesday teleconference that the NCAA will not allowed highly touted wing Demarquise Johnson to practice this season.

In addition, the Cougars face arguably their toughest homestand of the season beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday against Arizona State (TV: Pac-12 Networks). Both ASU and Arizona are nationally ranked.

Bone said he learned Monday that the NCAA would not allow Demarquise Johnson to practice this season. He said the ruling will not affect Johnson's future eligibility. Johnson will be a redshirt freshman next season.

"It's very unfortunate," Bone said. "The NCAA just stuck to their guns."

In previous years, that news might be softened by the prospect of facing a struggling Sun Devils' squad. But this season has been different as ASU (16-4 overall, 5-2 league) looks as strong as it has been since standout guard James Harden left for the NBA after guiding the Sun Devils to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2009.

ASU never has run a fast-paced offense under coach Herb Sendek — the Sun Devils' adjusted tempo ranks 165th nationally according to statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy — but Bone noted that they are much faster this year with the addition of redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson. He averages a team-high 17.3 points per game.

But ASU's success extends beyond Carson. The Sun Devils feature 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski, who Bone said is "going to play in the NBA," and 6-6 forward Carrick Felix. He averages 15.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season.

"He's very similar to Mike Ladd," said Bone, referring to the emergence of both players as seniors. "He's playing a lot of minutes and playing with a lot of confidence."

Ladd scored a game-high 23 points to help the Cougars to a 71-68 victory at OSU. He made 10 of 11 field goals and both free-throw attempts during that contest. Last season, Bone said he thought Ladd, who transferred from Fresno State and sat out the 2010-11 season, could average 10 points per game before he suffered an injury to his right thumb.

"We felt like Mike Ladd would step in last year and contribute in a really positive way," he said. "Injuries held him back all year long."

Given that Ladd serves as WSU's primary ball-handler, Bone thought he might not be a significant scorer this season. He said others, such as sophomore Royce Woolridge, also can handle the ball, which gives Ladd some freedom within the offense.

"Right now, [Ladd's] a guy we're looking to get shots for," Bone said. "He's done a great job."

With the exception of senior center Brock Motum, who scored 20 points, the Cougars (11-9, 2-5) did not have another double-digit scorer against the Beavers. Junior forward D.J. Shelton made just 2 of 10 shots, including 1 of 6 3-pointers, but he also grabbed 10 rebounds. Bone said he would talk with Shelton if his shot selection was poor, but said that was not the case. He said he has confidence in Shelton's shooting ability from the perimeter as he regularly performs well during practice.

Shelton was not WSU's only player who struggled against OSU. DaVonté Lacy made just 1 of 8 shots. Bone said Lacy just needs to "make a few shots" and he will "be just fine."

Perhaps the most notable statistical difference between the teams in that contest was the free-throw shooting. The Cougars converted 14 of 18 attempts from the line, while the Beavers made just 7 of 13. One exception to that was guard Ahmad Starks, who makes 85.7 percent of his free throws, but Bone wanted to foul him at midcourt after Woolridge converted both free throws to avoid a scenario where he made a game-tying 3-pointer as time expired. But Bone said Starks was able to sidestep Ladd at midcourt before hurling a 3-pointer wide left.

Bone said his philosophy on whether to foul a player or allow a potential game-tying 3-pointer depends on each opponent's strengths.

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