Winning moment eludes Cougars

LAS VEGAS - For most of the night, it seemed as if the highlight of Washington State's Vegas vacation came just 1:31 into its Pac-12 Tournament first-round game against rival Washington -- when Wazzu took a 5-4 lead, the first and only advantage the Cougs ever held.

Or maybe it came earlier Wednesday, when ‘Ol Crimson found its way onto the grandest GameDay of them all, the announcement in St. Peter's Square that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, had been elected pope. (Or maybe it was just a really clever Photoshop job; either way, it sent Twitter into hysterics.)

Or maybe it came last weekend, when Washington State upset Pac-12 regular-season champion UCLA and USC for its only winning streak in conference play this year.

But instead it happened with 2:16 remaining in the second half, as Washington State rallied all the way back from a 19-point deficit to tie the game at 62-all on a Royce Woolridge layup, only to go no further.

Desmond Simmons hit a jump shot with 1:16 to play, sending Washington State to a crushing 64-62 loss at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, despite the best efforts of senior forward Brock Motum.

Motum finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, scoring eight during the 15-0 run that deadlocked the game. He single-handedly carried his teammates during a choppy first-half with 14 of Washington State's 25 points.

He made the plays to keep a glimmer of hope alive. He made the plays to turn that glimmer into a full-blown rally. The only play he couldn't make was the last, forcing up a three-pointer through heavy contract from Andrew Andrews with three seconds to play.

The officials did not call a foul, to Motum's disappointment, and Washington would run out the clock to escape with the win.

"I heaved it up there trying to get three shots," Motum said. "The referees didn't call it or didn't see it.

"If there is contact on a shooter, I think there should be three shots. They are going to miss some things, but I thought it was a foul."

The problem was Motum was essentially a one-man gang facing an Army, rarely a successful formula. Washington got the contributions it needed everywhere.

Aside from a strong performance from D.J. Shelton (19 points, five rebounds, three assists), there wasn't nearly enough help for Motum.

And as it had played out in the two previous meetings, Washington State had no answers for guard Scott Suggs, leading Seattle Times Husky beat reporter Bob Condotta to joke on Twitter that the senior "might have been an All-American" if only Suggs could have played his entire career against the Cougars.

Suggs had 13 points in the half, hitting two triples and assisting on another during the backbreaking run. When Washington State made a run midway through the second half, he calmly knocked down back-to-back threes to restore some semblance of order, finishing with 19. Washington shot 46.2 percent in the first half, 50 percent in the second.

"I thought our guys actually battled hard, and if you watch the video, I think they played pretty good defense most of the time," head coach Ken Bone said. "Good players make good plays and he is a good player."

Bone said the loss was essentially a summation of the now-concluded season, with too many results decided by one possession, but was hopeful that it might represent a turning point.

"It has happened quite a bit this year," he said. "The really good teams around the country win those games, and this year we were not a really good team."

Asked if he had any trepidation about his job status, Bone said, "I'm not too concerned.

"I think we have done a good job. Decisions will be made, whether it is this year, next year, the following year."

The immediate news is Suggs won't be around next season to torment Washington State any longer.

The bad news? Motum won't be around either, that presence to carry them forward to the next level.

The hope must be that Shelton, Woolridge, some of the redshirting freshmen this year and the rest of the team will have learned from watching him, learned from the heartbreak of the season and learned from the heartbreak of this brief time in Las Vegas to find a way to create lasting highlights.

The ones that come from wins and not what might have beens.

"We'll get there," Bone said.

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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