Ladd, Lacy and Cougs revisit downtown

MIKE LADD

PULLMAN -- Ken Bone barely made it a minute before issuing a sigh of relief. The WSU head coach finally had a reason to smile in a post-game press conference after a Pac-12 game.

"It's the most pleased I've been after any Pac-12 win," he quipped after the Cougars (10-7, 1-3 Pac-12) cruised to a 75-65 victory against the Utah Utes at Beasley Coliseum (8-9, 0-5 Pac-12).

DaVonté Lacy needed Wednesday night's performance as much as his team did. Ensnared in a funk that stretched back to WSU's 74-39 win against Idaho State on December 29, the sophomore guard registered his first three in conference play minutes in. He calmly tacked on another in front of the Utes bench the ensuing possession.

Shooting slump finished, three-game losing streak caput.

"I've been shooting well in practice and just been getting up extra shots," Lacy said. "I knew one was going to fall eventually. It wasn't like I was going to miss for the rest of my life."

Apparently his teammates felt the same way.

"For me it's just about staying confident. My teammates never lost confidence in me and said keep shooting," Lacy said. "Obviously they kept looking for me because I kept getting shots."

Bone said he resorted to a backhanded threat to motivate his third leading scorer. The remark proved another fitting joke the day before a rare laugher.

"We had a little talk yesterday. I said, ‘You know if you don't hit a three this game I'm just going to tell people you're not a very good shooter. You got lucky your first year'" Bone said. "It kind of loosened him up a little bit and let him relax and play the way he is capable of doing."

Lacy's early exhibition – aided by a pair of Mike Ladd treys – garnered WSU a 12-3 lead Utah never seriously threatened. It also helped the Cougars torment the Pac-12's best shooting percentage defense with seven first-half treys.

Ladd continued his offensive transformation, knocking down four first-half threes and dropping 14 points before intermission. He finished with a career best 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting. His five treys were also a career high.

The Cougars, meanwhile, shot a scorching 50 percent from the field and knocked down 11-of-20 from beyond-the-arc. Their 34-26 half time lead came despite Brock Motum going scoreless in the first twenty minutes. All five starters finished in double figures for the first time this season.

"It was nice to see," Bone said. "I think they reason why – and we talked about this the last few days – Utah's a great defense. It's really a credit to our guys to be able to shoot the percentages that they shot from the field against a team like Utah. We needed those threes."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Brock Motum rebounded from a poor first half to end with 14 points. His biggest bucket came after the Utes momentarily cut WSU's lead to six at 47-41 with just under 10 minutes remaining. The trey from the top of key sparked an 8-0 WSU run.

  • Royce Woolridge exhibited why Kansas recruited him out of high school, dropping 14 points and dishing five assists in easily his best conference game. He tied for a team-high alongside Motum by logging 36 minutes. A target for criticism for his shoddy floor game early in the year, the sophomore committed just two turnovers against a stifling Utes defense.

  • Utah actually shot 46 percent from the floor. However, they had no answer from a WSU club that didn't rely almost exclusively on Motum down the stretch for the first time this year.

  • Bone acknowledged he felt like Wednesday's game was as close to a "must-win" considering WSU's winless start to Pac-12 play. The Cougars play Colorado Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Beasley Coliseum. "We needed this game and our kids knew it," he said. "That's a little bit of added pressure in those situations. With the exception of the one 10-0 run… we usually answered with good execution."
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