ADEN WASN'T DOWN FOR LONG; COULD BE PAC-12 PoW
PULLMAN – The Pacific-12 Conference basketball season is a marathon, not a sprint. That fact had not escaped the Washington State Cougars as they prepared for games with Stanford and California. Still, a 1-4 start in league play, capped by a second-half collapse at Washington, made the Cougars appear more than a little bit vulnerable.
With the conference co-leaders from Stanford and California next on the schedule, a 1-5 start seemed entirely possible.
Instead, the Cougars shocked a whole lot of folks by knocking off the Cardinal and Bears with impressive comeback wins that featured plenty of contributions from a horde of players on both ends of the floor.
“They just kept fighting and coming at us,” California forward Harper Kamp said. “They played with a lot of confidence.”
“This weekend’s games were really important for us,” WSU guard LaVonte Lacy said. “It showed we can play with anybody in the Pac-12.”
LODWICK DELIVERS: When Abe Lodwick arrived at Washington State in 2007, he brought with him a reputation as a deadly outside shooter. When he redshirted that first season, tales of his torrid shooting in practices became borderline legendary.
Then … nothing. Lodwick shot a ghastly 18 percent from the field as a freshman, 39 percent as a sophomore, 35 percent as a junior. He shot just 29 percent from beyond the arc in his first three seasons.
No matter how poorly Lodwick shot the ball, he remained a valued Cougar, a selfless individual who transitioned from shooting guard to undersized power forward for the good of the team. Nothing changed this year when Lodwick lost his starting job after missing the first 10 games with a foot injury.
What changed Saturday was Lodwick’s ability to sink baskets. Lodwick sank 4 of 6 shots – all from 3-point range – and scored a season-high 12 points.
“Abe Lodwick hurt us,” California coach Mike Montgomery said.
“This was as good a weekend as I can remember; just the circumstances and everything considered,” Lodwick said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The four 3-pointers are a career high for Lodwick. His 4.3 scoring average, 40.6 field-goal shooting percentage and 46.4 3-point shooting percentage are also career bests for the senior from Bend, Ore.
TRAVEL TIME: After playing their first two games in Pullman in a month, the Cougars are back on the road this week for games with Arizona on Thursday (7:30 p.m., ROOT Sports/FSN) and Arizona State on Saturday (2 p.m., ROOT).
Lodwick said “it’s great to experience success playing at home,” but he added, “I strongly believe the best teams win on the road.
“We’re going to keep having tests. People are going to keep doubting us. You know, ‘Oh, it’s a fluke (beating Stanford and Cal), they just win at home.’
“You’ve got to understand that and use that to motivate us.”
Washington State (11-8, 3-4 Pac-12) is tied for seventh with UCLA. Arizona (4-3, 13-7) is just ahead of the Cougars; Arizona State (6-13, 2-5) is right behind.
HOT WING: WSU senior wing Faisal Aden is a prime candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 33 points against Stanford, then pouring in 24 against California.
“Faisal is playing really good right now,” Lacy said. “Hopefully, he keeps it up.”
Aden, a streaky shooter from the perimeter, has emphasized drives to the basket more than outside shots of late. California senior Jorge Gutierrez, one of the Pac-12’s most respected defenders, had all kinds of problems guarding Aden.
“He just kind of blew by us,” Montgomery said.
The hard-working Gutierrez led Cal with 19 points. However, he missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the final horn after Lacy buried a game-winning trey over the leaping Gutierrez with 18.3 seconds left in a 77-75 win at Beasley Coliseum.
“That was the biggest one (shot) I’ve ever hit because it was at this level,” Lacy said.
MEMORY BANK: Lacy, averaging 9.9 points as a freshman starter, is in no hurry to forget that Washington State was the only Pac-12 school that seriously recruited him.
“After every game, I hope every coach says, ‘I wish I recruited him,’” Lacy said.
Lacy averaged 19.6 points last season as an all-state player at Curtis High School in University Place outside Tacoma.
CROWD COUNT: Saturday’s lively crowd of 5,013 was a season high in Pullman, where the Cougars are 7-0.
WSU ranks 11th in Pac-12 attendance with a 4,709 average (USC averages 4,310). WSU’s official total includes two home games in Spokane, where the Cougars averaged 9,086, but does not include the unofficial home game in Seattle (an annual event at KeyArena) that drew 9,831.
The Cougars are averaging 3,959 in Pullman. For perspective, consider that the Gonzaga women’s basketball team averages 5,272.
EXTRA SHOTS: WSU’s bench outscored California’s reserves 42-4 ... The Cougars outrebounded Cal 33-30. That’s the first time WSU has outrebounded a Pac-12 rival, though the Cougars twice broke even on the boards ... Senior post Charlie Enquist continues to start, but Lodwick has played more minutes than Enquist in each of the past five games. On Saturday, Lodwick started the second half for Enquist, who had no points or rebounds in 14 minutes. In seven Pac-12 games, Enquist (who had two double-doubles in non-conference play) has seven points and 18 rebounds. Coach Ken Bone has not tipped his hand on whether former starters Lodwick and/or Aden might return to the starting lineup ... Montgomery and Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins credited WSU’s coaching staff with halftime adjustments that hurt their teams. Montgomery said Cal’s big men had trouble dealing with a smaller, more spread-out WSU offense. Dawkins credited the Cougars with collapsing their zone defense on talented Stanford post Josh Owens to limit his touches.
DANCE TEAM OUT IN FORCE SATURDAY