PULLMAN -- In a tight game WSU needed to win to reenter the Pac-12 conversation, one awkward sequence proved the difference. A frenetic 7-0 Cougar rally fueled by Royce Woolridge had just knotted the game at 58 with 2:04 remaining. After ASU's Carrick Felix followed by missing a short jumper, Brock Motum came down with his 11th rebound…
WSU's leading scorer took a step, bumping into Felix as the ball squirmed loose.
Felix slid head-first across the three-point line and careened the ball before tossing it to Sun Devil Jahii Carson.
A missed travel call? Maybe. A missed foul call?
Probably, if you ask WSU head coach Ken Bone
"From my view I thought he got pushed but maybe I didn't see it right," Bone said in a tense press conference after WSU lost 63-59 to the visiting Sun Devils Thursday. "The officials were a lot closer to that than I was."
Carson, who torched the Cougars for 25 points, caught Felix's desperation pass and converted a crippling "and-one." The momentum-shifting play proved too much against coach Herb Sendek's best ASU team (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12) since James Harden and Derek Glasser comprised their backcourt.
"I saw Brock go down," Woolridge said after his Cougars fell to 11-10, (2-6 Pac-12). "I was trying to get back and stop the layup."
After Brock Motum
split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 61-59, Carson ran the shot clock down to under 10 seconds, then blasted by Dexter Kernich-Drew
to permanently silence the 4,728 celebrating "Greek Night" at Beasley Coliseum.
"I got caught napping and he just made a shot," Kernich-Drew said after playing in place of Davonte Lacy down the stretch. "He's pretty quick."
Carson, who entered averaging 19 points and 5.6 assists in the past five games, left little doubt he was the best player on the floor by night's end. The Cougars actually contained the freshman well in the first half en route to a 28-26 halftime lead.
It was little surprise the lead evaporated when Carson went off down the stretch.
"In the second half and at the end of the game he really took over," Bone said. "He made six of his last seven attempts and we just couldn't stop him."
They could not stop blowing an early 13-4 lead despite ASU's early stretch of cold shooting, either.
"For the first half the defense against him worked very well, but it's a forty minute game," Bone said. "The (lead) could always be bigger when you hold a team for that long."
Motum struggled against an enormous ASU frontcourt. Guarded all night by Jordan Bachynski (7-feet-2-inches) and Ruslan Pateev (7-feet), WSU's leading scorer suffered his roughest shooting night in recent memory. He made just 3-of-13 shots from the field, finishing with a season-low 11 points. However, he did nab 11 rebounds and helped hold Bachynski to five points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Royce Woolridge took a major step toward filling the void left by Reggie Moore's departure on Thursday. His 16 points and four assists paced a Cougars team that struggled from the floor. WSU held ASU to 38.7 percent shooting while converting 39.6 percent of their attempts. Bone sounded pleased with the combo-guard after the game. The last two games he's played with confidence down the stretch and made some good positive plays for us," Bone said. "He's the one who can get the ball into the paint probably as good, if not better than anybody else on our team."
Davonte Lacy sported a wrap around his shooting thumb during his 23 minutes of action. Mired in what has turned into a season-long shooting slump, the Curtis High School product judiciously chose his spots to attack on offense. He attempted just four shots but knocked down two of them, ending the night with five points and four rebounds. However, Bone opted to play an emerging Kernich-Drew down the stretch.
Bone became livid at an officiating crew that the home crowd and head coach felt was subpar in the second half. He remained irked at one play in particular well after the final buzzer sounded. "Felix passed it to (Jonathan) Gilling and then Gilling turned and stepped out of bounds," he said. "That was a violation and I know I saw that."