Cougars' normally solid D has no answers

SOLID DEFENSE. Washington State generally has been able to count on that to keep games close this year. That was not the case Saturday as the Cougars had perhaps their poorest performance of the season on that end in a mostly disspiriting 76-62 loss at UCLA.

WSU allowed the Bruins to shoot 62 percent from the field. UCLA's performance in that statistic is the best against the Cougars since Oregon converted 69 percent of its field goals in December 2011.

For perspective, WSU ranks 96th nationally in adjusted defense by statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy. WSU coach Ken Bone was not ready to declare it as a lackluster defensive effort, though.

"Almost everyone on their team seemed to have a hot hand," he said during a postgame radio interview.

"They really executed well offensively. When Larry Drew [II] starts hitting 3s and free throws, you're in trouble."

Drew II, who averages 6.5 points per game, had nine points, eight assists and four steals. The Bruins (18-6, 8-3), who were led by wing Shabazz Muhammad's 14 points, had four players score in double figures.

But defense was far from WSU's only issue. UCLA's field-goal percentage was buoyed by 19 Cougars' turnovers, which the Bruins translated into 20 points.

In addition to struggling to hold onto the ball, WSU also could not shoot it. During the early going, the Cougars looked like a replica of Bone's successful Portland State teams that twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament behind superior shooting from beyond the arc. DaVonté Lacy made 3 of 6 3-pointers en route to 10 points.

WSU was hapless inside the arc, though. The Cougars did not score a 2-pointer until junior Will DiIorio had a putback with 3:40 left in the first half. Couple that with a 11:20-minute span without a field goal during the opening half and WSU trailed 39-24 at the intermission.

"I thought they did a good job of taking passing lanes away," Bone said. "Some of the credit goes to UCLA and how they defended during the first half. Their quickness and athleticism got to us. Their length really bothered us."

Given those issues, it was a surprise that WSU did not lose by much more. The Cougars even cut their deficit to 70-60 with about three minutes remaining on a layup by sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew.

"They hung in there at halftime," Bone said. "They executed well and got some easy baskets."

Senior center Brock Motum scored a game-high 17 points, while sophomore guard Royce Woolridge added 16.

Those were among the few highlights as WSU fell into a tie with Utah (10-13, 2-9) for last place in the conference.

WSU PLAYER OF THE GAME: After transferring from Kansas and redshirting last season, Woolridge seems to be emerging after struggling earlier in the season. His 16 points marked the fourth consecutive game he reached double figures. He also shot 60 percent from the field.

INTERESTING STATS: After committing just six turnovers against the Trojans, WSU had 19 versus UCLA. Also, Motum now has 1,368 career points, which is the 10th most in program history.

NEXT UP ON SCHEDULE: WSU hosts Oregon State at 7 p.m. Wednesday (TV: Pac-12 Networks). The Beavers offer the Cougars their only chance at a Pac-12 sweep this season.

PLAY OF THE GAME: In a game with few highlights for WSU, Kernich-Drew's layup put the Cougars in position to avoid a double-digit loss – an almost unthinkable prospect given that the Bruins had a nearly two-to-one advantage in 2-point field goals (25-13).

THE RECORD: WSU is now 11-13 overall and 2-9 in Pac-12 play.


Cougfan Top Stories