HOOPS: Trends emerging for Cougs after loss

IT'S ALREADY BECOME a familiar script for Washington State (3-4) on the hardcourt. They launch a lot of threes and if they hit them, things generally turn out well. But when they don't connect enough from long range, and they didn't against St. Joseph's, losses like the 72-67 setback in the Old Spice Classic are the result. But there was something else also trending on Sunday down in Orlando.

The disappearing Cougars.

In two of the three Old Spice Classic games, both losses, WSU was outscored badly down the stretch. On Sunday, WSU was on the wrong end of a 12-2 run over the final 4:16 against St. Joe's, wiping out a 65-60 crimson advantage. In the 76-69 loss to Butler on Thursday, WSU was outscored 11-2 in final 2:28.

WSU has also shown recent signs of being a second half team. Specifically, they've shown the potential to own the first five minutes coming out of the locker room. They did it again on Sunday, turning a six-point first half deficit against St. Joe's into a four-point lead just four minutes into the second frame. It was accomplished in large part with hustle.

Junior Longrus fought like hell for a rebound under the bucket, found DaVonté Lacy for a three that cut the lead to 36-35. Good defense on the other end from D.J. Shelton and Longrus gave WSU their first lead 39-38 less than four minutes into the second half. A Dexter Kernich-Drew extended that lead to four and capped the 14-4 WSU run to begin the second half.

STILL, IT WAS once again the Lacy Show on the offensive end for the Cougars, something that is both good and bad.

With the Cougs up 42-38 in the second half, Lacy had scored 18 of Wazzu's points on 6-of-8 shooting. The rest of the Cougs at that point were a combined 8-21 for 24 points.

The disparity continued through the game. When the buzzer sounded, Lacy had 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. The rest of the Cougs combined for 16-of-40 from the floor, and 42 points.

The final minutes of a close basketball game like the one on Sunday are what draws the most focus. But the Cougars' first half shooting woes from long range are difficult to ignore. In that first half, WSU threw it up from downtown 15 times, connecting on only five. For the game, they were 10-of-26.

And just as noteworthy is what heaving it early and often from 3-point land takes away – trips to the foul line.

Washington State got to the line only 10 times all game against St. Joe's. They hit seven of them, but the 10 trips were a season low.

Que Johnson had a hot stretch in the second half, and scored all 10 of his points in the second frame. But sandwiched around that were some more misses for the redshirt freshman.

He was 4-10 from the field. But he was also the only other Cougar in addition to Lacy to score in double figures.

  • Lacy has hit 132 three-pointers in his WSU career, moving him into a tie for 11th place with Taylor Rochestie (2007-09) on WSU's all-time list, passing Jerry McNair (2001-03) and Donminic Ellison (1994-96).

  • Brett Boese appeared to tweak a thigh muscle or a knee in the first half. He didn't return but appeared to be moving around reasonably well during timeouts.

  • Longrus had five points, four rebounds, three assists and a block in 22 minutes.

  • WSU was outrebounded 19-10 in the first half and 37-27 for the game.

  • Kernich-Drew and Royce Woolridge each had seven points on the game.

  • Jordan Railey was 2-2 from the field but got into foul trouble and played 17 minutes. He finished with four fouls, as did Longrus. The previous game, Railey had 13 points and two fouls in 21 minutes in the win over Purdue.

  • Next up for the Cougars is a tilt with Idaho on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Kibbie Dome.

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