BONE CREW ALMOST ENGINEERED COMEBACK FOR THE AGES
LAS VEGAS – The silence was deafening in the Washington State Cougars locker room Wednesday evening. Almost as deafening as the silence of Bill Moos. Washington State’s athletic director did nothing to quiet fan chatter about the status of basketball coach Ken Bone when Moos declined to respond to a Cougfan.com request for an update on Bone’s status.
The email was sent late Wednesday morning, more than eight hours prior to WSU’s opening-round game with Washington at the Pac-12 Conference tournament. The Cougars were badly outplayed most of the game, but rallied from 19 down in the second half to tie the game before bowing 64-62.
Asked after the game if he is concerned about his job, Bone managed to laugh while saying, “Not right now.”
What about on Thursday?
“I’m just not too concerned,” he said. “I’m just not too concerned about that. I think we’ve done a good job. Decisions will be made, whether it’s this year, or next year or the following year. It’s out of my control, so I’m not going to worry about things outside of my control.”
Bone said Moos has not yet set a date to talk with him.
“I haven’t been calling Bill and he hasn’t called me,” Bone said.
Moos has always maintained that he makes decisions on firing or keeping coaches after the season. However, Moos so commonly gushes publicly about many other coaches that is obvious during the season they are in no danger of losing their job.
The Cougars finished 13-19 (including 0-3 against arch-rival Washington) despite playing a weak nonconference schedule. Bone owns a 70-65 record (.519) at WSU, with three winning seasons. His conference record fell to 26-46 (.361) when the Cougars went 4-14 in the Pac-12 to finish last for the second time in his four years at the helm.
Wednesday’s loss left Washington State with the worst all-time record in the history of the conference tournament (5-14). Bone’s 0-4 coaching record in the tournament ties him with former Arizona State coach Rob Evans for the worst in tournament history.
A SEASON MARRED by close losses and late-game breakdowns ended in familiar fashion Wednesday.
The Cougars trailed 18-5 after 8 ½ minutes (going scoreless for seven minutes), 50-31 after five minutes of the second half and 62-47 with 8 ½ minutes to go. Miraculously, they then forged a 62-62 tie by scoring 15 unanswered points.
Senior forward Brock Motum produced eight of his game-high 28 points during the outburst, which ended with Royce Woolridge blowing past Scott Suggs to score on a layin with 2:52 left.
That proved to be WSU’s last basket of the season. Desmond Simmons powered past Motum for a layin at 1:17 (Washington’s only basket in the final 8 1-2 minutes); Woolridge threw away a pass with 49.6 seconds to go; and Motum’s 3-point try from the right side with Andrew Andrews closely guarding him came up short with about 3 seconds left. After two time-outs, C.J. Wilcox hauled in a long in-bounds pass and dribbled out the clock.
Motum said Andrews “reached in” and fouled him when he launched the 3 with the intent of drawing a foul if the ball didn’t go down. Teammate D.J. Shelton said it was “a bad non-call” when Andrews was not whistled for a foul.
“I was right there,” said Shelton, who scored a career-high 19 points. “I think it was a foul … I think he (Andrews) grabbed his arm.”
The errant pass by Woolridge, who finished with 12 points and a game-high four turnovers, also proved critical.
“I thought he (Mike Ladd) was going to pop out, but he cut back door, so it was a miscommunication,” Woolridge explained.
Costly mistakes late in games saddled WSU with a 1-10 record in games decided by five points or less. The Cougars’ three losses to Washington came by margins of five, four and two points, respectively.
There was plenty of blame to go around Wednesday. Starting guards Ladd (playing just his second game since injuring a knee that is not 100 percent) and Dexter Kernich-Drew (starting because DaVonte Lacy was out due to knee surgery) both went scoreless.
Kernich-Drew struggled at both ends of the floor and was benched down the stretch in favor of Will DiIorio. The 6-foot-10 Motum had just one rebound on a night when Washington outrebounded the Cougars 29-23.
Until their own late-game meltdown, the Huskies played with far more precision than WSU most of the game. Motum termed the offense “stagnant” in the first half, when he scored 14 of WSU’s 25 points, and Shelton (six) and Woolridge (five) scored the other points. The Huskies, meanwhile, had seven players score in the half.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy in the first half,” Woolridge said. “We played kind of sluggish.”
“They took us out of a lot of our offense,” Shelton said, “so we had to find ways to get around it.”
Eventually, the Cougars did solve Washington’s defense, only to fall short at the end after making the stirring comeback.
“It’s a testament to all the guys and the character in our locker room,” Motum said.
“You’ve got to give Washington State a lot of credit,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They fought hard. They didn’t put their head down when they had that deficit.”
Still, a loss is a loss. Close only counts in … well, Bone doesn’t want to hear about it after one more narrow defeat.
“The really good teams around the country win those games,” he said. “This year, we were not a very good team.”
An estimated 6,500 spectators watched the game at the 13,127-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena. Perhaps 300 WSU fans were on hand. The Huskies may have had a slightly larger group of supporters.
Motum is the only Pac-12 player who scored in double figures every game this season. He finished his career fifth in WSU history with 1,530 points. Bidding for a second straight Pac-12 scoring title, Motum moved into first ahead of California’s Allen Crabbe, 18.7-18.4.
Suggs sank 6 of 8 shots, including 4 of 6 treys, to lead Washington with 19 points. The Huskies have won six straight games over WSU, and 10 of the past 12 meetings.
The Cougars finished 1-12 on the road, not counting victories in two unofficial “home” games in Seattle and Kennewick.