Cougs find confidence, heartbreak in OT loss

CONFIDENCE. THE COUGS finally found the ingredient missing most all season against No. 15 Colorado. You could see it in the way Royce Woolridge ran the point, in how Dexter Kernich-Drew went off for a career-high 24 points. There was D.J. Shelton crashing the boards, Que Johnson calmly drilling a must-have trey. Unfortunately for the Cougs, they came up shy 71-70 in an overtime heartbreaker.

Washington State (7-8, 0-3) seized an early lead in Spokane and wouldn't let go despite missing their leading scorer in DaVonté Lacy (17.6 ppg) due to a rib injury. And Colorado (14-2, 3-0) didn't take their first lead until 4:26 remained in regulation.

Throughout, the Cougs displayed a consistency lacking all season against upper-level opponents -- and there was no better example of that than Kernich-Drew.

Kernich-Drew scored 12 points in the first half all from beyond the arc, shooting 4-6. And then he duplicated that stat line in the second, finishing 8-12 for 24 points, (6-8 for the game on 3-point shots.)

From a team standpoint, the Cougs held Colorado to 28 points in each half despite the Buffs heading to the free throw line time and time again. Colorado came into the game fresh off scoring 100 points against Oregon and averaging 78.1 ppg.

Meanwhile, against the 45th best rebounding team in the land, Shelton crashed the boards on the defensive end, limiting Colorado to one-and-done on multiple occasions. He finished as the game's leading rebounder with 12 boards, the next closest Colorado rebounder had but half of Shelton's total. The Cougar forward scored 14 points on 6-11 shooting.

IN THE FINAL MOMENTS OF regulation, after Colorado had come all the way back and proceeded to take a three-point lead, the Cougars called a timeout with 10 seconds left. Ken Bone put Johnson back in and it proved prescient – Johnson nailed a three to tie it and the game headed to overtime.

WSU scored the first bucket of the extra frame but Colorado went on a 12-4 run to seemingly put the game out of reach. The Cougs responded with a 6-1 run on two treys in the final 10 seconds but it wasn't to be.

Woolridge played one heckuva game, mostly at the point. He dished out 11 assists and scored 10 points to claim his first collegiate double-double. Overshadowed by their teammates' outings, Junior Longrus and Ike Iroegbu quietly played a solid 31 and 25 minutes respectively, combining for 10 points and eight rebounds.

Washington STATE'S UPSET BID suffered the most at the line – incredibly the Cougs got to the charity stripe only three times the entire game.

They hit all three of their free throws but that couldn't compare to Colorado, who connected on 26 tries out of 38 attempts from the free throw line.

The big question now is if Washington State can carry that newfound confidence and consistency over to their next game – they host Utah in Pullman on Sunday (TV: Pac-12 Networks, 4 p.m.) The Utes were playing at Washington late on Wednesday night, entering the game with a 12-2 mark.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Shelton's third double-double of the season was the fifth of his career, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

  • Washington State tied their season high with 17 assists.

  • The Cougars shot a season-best .565 (13-for-23) from beyond the 3-point arc. The Cougs shot 45 percent overall against Colorado.

    QUE JOHNSON DRIVES IN THE SECOND HALF. HIS TREY AT THE END OF REGULATION SENT THE GAME INTO OVERTIME.


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