Many story lines in WSU win over Bakersfield

PULLMAN – Washington State's season opener Friday featured something the Cougars struggled to do nearly all of last season: earn a victory in a close game. The CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners made a late run that put an unexpected fright in the 3,032 fans at Friel Court, head coach Ken Bone said he was not only happy with his team's effort but actually pleased the game went down to crunch time.

The Cougars let an 18-point second-half lead dwindle down to a one-possession game with less than 90 seconds left before sealing the deal, 62-56.

"Even as ugly as the game was, because of all the fouls…we had a good lead and it disappeared," Bone said. "Part of the credit goes to Bakersfield. They didn't give up, they hit big shots they hit threes, to close the gap. I'm glad it happened that way personally, we need to win a game like this, we need to win more games like this. Last year this is the type of game we would lose a lead, the other team would gain momentum, and we would lose by one or two."

Woeful shooting by the Cougars is what allowed Bakersfield to stay in the game. WSU was 15 of 48 (31 percent) from the field, including 4 of 23 from three-point range.

The poor shooting, especially from downtown, didn't bother Bone because he liked the looks the Cougs were getting and his guys didn't hesitate to fire away.

"I thought it was great. In fact I wish would have shot more," Bone said. "I thought we had really good looks, that's why. I don't think we were forcing the shot. We talked about it at halftime as a staff and then let the players know, hey keep shooting those shots."

"We think we have a group of guys that can really shoot it, that's what that defense gives up is the three. They don't give up a lot of points in the paint so we didn't try to force the issue getting the ball inside."

Scoring, however, wasn't at the top of Bone's check list when he rolled out his starting lineup. Two mainstays – post-man D.J. Shelton and point guard Royce Woolridge – weren't in it. The reason, Bone said afterward, was to make a statement about one of his ongoing themes this year: better rebounding.

So sophomore Brett Boese and freshman Ike Iroegbu were in the starting five with DaVonte Lacy, Junior Longrus and Will DiIorio. Boese wound up playing six minutes to Shelton's 28, and Iroegbu, who was expected to play a lot anyway, registered 19 minutes to Woolridge's 25.

Shelton clearly received Bone's message. He led all rebounders with 10.

"The guys that started tonight did the best job, percentage wise, rebounding in their positions over scrimmages that we had, and the exhibition game," Bone said.

"I've done that numerous times over the years," Bone said of the line up shuffe. "If I was a football coach, what do you have, 11-12 games, those decisions are a little harder but I'm looking at the big picture. We want to be as good as we can come spring training for baseball, that's a few months from now and so we need to rebound the ball and I think that was evident tonight," Bone said.

The Cougars outrebounded Bakersfield 40-35 but Bone said he was disappointed.

"No I'm not," he said when asked if he was satisfied with the rebounding totals. ‘I thought I saw some good effort at times from certain guys. Josh Hawkinson plays 7 minutes and comes up with 3 offensive boards, that was good. D.J. (Shelton) grabbed some boards, but all in all we did not do a good job rebounding."

THE REFEREES WEREN'T SHY about enforcing the NCAA's new defensive rules, particularly the block/charge call, which gave both teams difficulty throughout the night, especially the Cougar big men.

Jordan Railey, seeing his first action as a Cougar, and Josh Hawkinson each collected four fouls in just seven minutes of court time. Longrus also had four fouls, but his came over 23 minutes of playing time.

Bone attributed their woes partly to the aggressive Roadrunner penetration.

"It's going to be a learning curve by everybody, the officials, the players the coaches, the fans, it's a different game, and you're going to hear a lot of people talk about it," Bone said.

Fifty-five fouls were called between the two teams. WSU shot 43 free throws (hitting 65 percent) and Bakersfield toed the stripe 28 times (hitting just 39 percent).

On the perimeter, Woolridge's learning curve with the new defensive rules was evident as he too finished the night with four fouls.

"This is year is something different than how I've ever played basketball," Woolridge said. "They changed the rules a lot. You can't even touch a player, if you touch him it's a foul, literally. It's something you have to get used to and we learned the hard way, I feel like everybody was in foul trouble pretty much."

"We gotta figure it out, we'll just back to the lab, talk to the coaches and figure it out," he said.


  • Lacy finished with a career high 28 points, going 6-17 from the field (2-12 from downtown) and 14-17 from the foul line. "I'm not just a shooter," Lacy said. "If you would of said I had 28 points you would think it'd be all threes. It was just the rule changes…my teammates finding me, getting layups, it was a whole bunch of things."

  • Shelton was present in all facets of the game without knocking in a three-point shot, which he did regularly last season. He took just one shot from downtown. In addition to his game-high 10 rebounds, he had seven points, three assists, one block and one steal.

  • The eight fastbreak points and three run-out dunks the Cougars collected were just a preview of what the new defense can bring, according to Lacy. "We're playing a different style, it's going to lead to easy offense, it's going to lead to easy offense. I think you guys seen a glimpse of it today but we could be a lot better," he said.

  • Along with Railey, newcomers Hawkinson and Que Johnson failed to log a field goal on the night, both going 0-2 from the field. Bone said Johnson, who played just seven minutes, is still showing the most rust of any player on the team. He didn't play last season and missed much of fall practice with a foot injury.

  • Eleven players saw the floor for the Cougars, something Bone said won't be a common theme the rest of the season even though he said he sees a lot of parity amongst this unit. "It'll shorten up, that was a lot of guys, although there's a chance all those guys would have played even if we had started a different lineup. There's not a huge difference between certain guys, whoever the top 2,3,4 players are on the team and those bottom 9, 10, 11 guys.

  • The Cougs held a 16-8 advantage over Bakersfield in second-chance points.

  • Next up, the Cougars will host Lamar, coached by Bobby Knight's son. Tip off is next Saturday, Nov. 16, in Beasley at 9:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.


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