Cougs win big -- but lose Lacy

PULLMAN -- It may have been a Merry Christmas, but the Cougs are far from a Happy New Year. Washington State soundly defeated Mississippi Valley State, 85-48, on Saturday night. But the big win was only half the lead story, as star guard DaVonté Lacy underwent sudden surgery to remove his appendix. And no one knows for sure just how long the Cougs' leading scorer will be out.

Lacy will definitely miss the Arizona game next Thursday, and likely more games after that. Regardless of the time frame, until he gets back the Cougs will be looking for someone – and likely multiple someones – to fill the void of the Cougs' leading scorer (18.9 ppg).

In the blowout win over Mississippi Valley State, the Cougars were able to experiment with what life will be like without Lacy. And it was Que Johnson who got the start in his place. He did a pretty decent imitation in filling up the bucket, with 19 points in 34 minutes.

Dexter Kernich-Drew played more minutes as well, finishing with seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes of play.

Fifteen minutes prior to tip Bone said he wasn't sure who was going to start, but ultimately decided to bring in Ike Iroegbu off the bench.

"We decided to go with length because they have good shooters and we thought that might hurt their opportunities," Bone said.

Iroegbu had his chances, logging 21 minutes off the bench and popping in six points, but it was Johnson and D.J. Shelton who stole the show.

Johnson, who's been hot of late, led all scorers and went 5-of-11 from 3-point range. He also had five rebounds and an assist.

Shelton meanwhile was an early force and had a double-double before halftime. He finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and shot a blistering 6-of-7 from the floor – his lone miss was a 3-point attempt.

Royce Woolridge also saw quality time at the point. He finished with 16 points, led the team with six assists, and he had three steals.

The final stats are impressive, but it took a while for the experiment to completely pay off.

Defensively, the Cougs were solid all night long. In the first half they held the Delta Devils scoreless for nearly 11 minutes, but instead of truly breaking the game open, the WSU offense also struggled.

WSU did go on a 17-0 run, but in the glass-half-empty world, the Cougs had multiple chances to pull away in mammoth proportions in the first half but too often they stumbled in the paint, turned the ball over and took errant 3-point attempts.

While the Delta Devils were shooting blanks for 11 minutes, the Cougs went on a six minute dry spell of their own. That spell ended when Junior Longrus, who finished the day with eight points, went 1-of-2 from the free throw line. That seemed to spark the Cougars as Kernich-Drew stole the ball and dunked it, Shelton hit a baby hook from the key and Johnson buried a 3.

That spurt pushed WSU to a 21-3 lead, but the Delta Devils woke up and made a game of it – for a half. Soon WSU's lead was down to 24-17. The Cougs countered and took a 32-22 lead into the break but it still felt like too many opportunities wasted. It felt like it should have been a 20-point lead given how much of the first half played out. But the Cougs took care of that in the second half.

Indeed, the Cougars owned the second half.

After shooting 43 percent from the floor in the first half, WSU sizzled over the final 20 minutes, shooting a ridiculous 83 percent from the floor and going 4-of-7 from behind the 3-point line.

Many of those buckets came off transition, and most came from inside the paint.

WSU outscored MVSU 20-4 off turnovers, 48-18 in the paint and 14-8 on second-chance points. The Cougs pushed it to a 20-point lead. Then it was 30, followed by 35. And then came 40.

A big win was just what the Cougs needed as they head to Arizona without their ace.

"It's very important," Bone said. "It would have not been a good deal if we had been beat. It's great we were able to win without him because we know what's ahead."

What's ahead is a powerful Arizona team that is 13-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. On the other side is a WSU team that is missing not only its points leader, but its vocal and emotional leader as well.

Lacy doesn't just lead the Cougs in scoring at 18.9 ppg, he has also been their only reliable three-point threat, shooting 41 percent from 3-point land over 11 games this season.

Bone said he did not learn about Lacy's situation until Saturday afternoon, and he had limited information concerning his condition immediately after the game. He said he learned about the situation only just before shoot-around.

Apparently Lacy had been feeling ill, but the extent of the illness was unknown at that time. Lacy went to the hospital to get checked out but instead of being treated for the flu, he found himself undergoing surgery for an appendicitis.

"They did surgery an hour or two before the game," Bone said.

The question on every Cougar's mind is: What now? Following the battle with No. 1 Arizona next Thursday, the Cougs then travel to Phoenix to take on Arizona State. After that they head to Spokane for their "home" conference opener against No. 21 Colorado on Jan. 8, and then hold their true home opener on Jan. 12, playing hist to Utah.

Just how many games Lacy will miss is up in the air.

"I just don't know," Bone said. "'I'll go to the hospital and find out. One guy said 3-7 days, one guy said a week to two weeks. I just don't know."

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