Unforced turnovers, untimely misses and defensive lapses will no doubt haunt the Cougs in the wake of the 72-68 setback.
But there will be no second-guessing of the effort the Cougars put forth or their togetherness off the court.
“We’re not going to quit. I think we’ve shown that the last nine games,” WSU guard DaVonte Lacy said after game, which stretched the Cougars’ losing streak to nine games.
“We love each other,” point guard Royce Woolridge said. “We love playing with each other.”
“No one in the locker room is going to give up,” forward Brock Motum promised. “It would be easy.”
Washington’s fifth straight win over the Cougars did not come easy, but WSU made it easier for the Huskies by making a whopping 18 turnovers. Many came on critical mistakes down the stretch.
“Just unforced errors,” Lacy said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.”
“A lot of turnovers today were unforced errors and mental mistakes,” Woolridge said. “I take a lot of responsibility for that type of stuff because I’m the point guard.”
Woolridge and Motum both played all 40 minutes and each scored a team-high 18 points. Motum made just one turnover, while Woolridge had a game-high five.
Bone said fatigue may have been a factor in the late-game turnovers. Woolridge said fatigue was “not really” a factor in his turnovers in the final minutes of a game that WSU led much of the way, including an eight-point lead early in the second half and by five points with 8:40 to go.
“The kids played hard,” Bone said – quite accurately – for the umpteenth time after a loss this season. “We made mistakes on the offensive end, especially at the end of the game, that were critical mistakes that gave Washington a good opportunity to have more possessions than we had. That makes it difficult to win ball games.”
Lacy joined Woolridge in making costly turnovers late in the game. After the Huskies (16-13, 8-8) threw a pass out of bounds on an in-bounds play with 42.6 seconds left and WSU trailing by five with no-time outs left, Lacy fired an in-bounds pass directly to Washington star C.J. Wilcox when no one got open as the 5-second time limit neared. Wilcox sank two free throws, and the game was essentially over.
“I’ve got to throw it regardless if anyone’s open or not,” Lacy said. “It looked bad. I know it.”
Bone, like his players, continues to answer post-game questions as patiently and politely as ever. Bone is well aware that many fans are calling for his head with the Cougars struggling through an 11-18 season (2-14 in the Pac-12 Conference).
A fan in the Washington student section occasionally held aloft a sign that read #FIRE Ken Bone. The reference was to numerous Twitter messages made by major WSU booster Ken Rankich, who has made no secret of his desire for a coaching change.
“Coach Bone is a good coach,” Woolridge said. “He’s doing all he can.
“I respect the man. I’m trying to turn the season around for him and the seniors.”
Starting point guard Mike Ladd, WSU’s only senior besides Motum, missed his fifth straight game with a knee injury. Bone said Ladd’s knee is showing some progress, but he’s doubtful for Wednesday’s home game with UCLA (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Cougars finish league play Saturday at home against USC (3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), then play in the conference tournament March 13-16 in Las Vegas.
Motum, who said last week that he has not ruled out winning four games in four days in Las Vegas to qualify for the NCAA tournament, insisted that the Cougars have continued to improve during the losing streak.
“It’s hard to say that when you lose nine times in a row and you feel like you’re getting better each time,” he said. “It’s tough, because eventually you need to put some wins on the board.”
Motum and D.J. Shelton, with a bit of relief from Junior Longrus, limited Washington’s four post players to 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the Huskies shot 41.2 percent on 3-pointers (7 for 17) and 53.3 percent (24 for 45) overall. Scott Suggs (5 for 8 on treys) and Wilcox both scored 23 points.
The Cougars, arguably the Pac-12’s worst offensive team, shot 42.9 percent on 3’s (9 for 21) and 51.2 percent overall (22 for 43).
“There were some very good minutes of basketball that our guys played,” Bone said. “But at the end of the day, we didn’t care of business down the stretch, and Washington made plays and we didn’t.”
Motum, on pace to finish fifth in career scoring at Washington State, may be down to his final three college games. Win or lose, he promises the Cougars will play hard and stay together as a team the rest of the way.
“It’s just the character of the guys,” he said. “That’s the mentality we all have.
“We’re all from different backgrounds. We’ve all experienced losses before, but not to this extent.
“Really good teammates. They stick with it. They bring it at practice every day.”
WSU shot better than 50 percent from the field for the first time since the first two games of the season. The Cougars hit 54.7 percent against Eastern Washington and 51.8 percent against Utah Valley.
The Cougars have lost nine games by five points or less, including a 68-63 loss to Washington in a Pac-12 opener Jan. 5 in Pullman.
Motum’s family and one of his former coaches attended the game after flying in from Australia. They’ll follow him to Pullman, where they expect to be joined by two of Motum’s friends and former teammates from Australia. All but the coach plan to follow the Cougars to Las Vegas.
Washington senior Aziz N’Diaye, a native of the African nation of Senegal, played basketball in front of his mother for the first time in his life. Perhaps he had stage fright: The starting center had two points, no rebounds and no field-goal attempts in 13 minutes.
The Huskies have won two straight games for the first time since they started 4-0 in Pac-12 play. … The nine-game losing streak is WSU’s longest since a 14-game skid in 2002-03.
Throw out victories in two unofficial home games in Seattle and Kennewick, and WSU is 1-11 away from Pullman this season. The lone road win, Jan. 26 at Oregon State, was WSU’s most recent win of any kind.
D.J. SHELTON WITH A MONSTER SLAM ON SCOTT SUGGS IN FIRST HALF.