Go figure. Washington State avenged its overtime loss of a year ago to Pepperdine by dispatching the Waves 78-61 in front of 2,243 mostly subdued fans at Friel Court on Sunday.
The game was nothing if not a conundrum. The final margin masked the fact it was competitive for a good 30 of the 40 minutes.
Of course, the Cougs could have pulled away earlier if they’d hit even a modest percentage of their free throws. In the first half they made just 2 of 9, and in the second 11 of 21. Add it all up and you get accuracy of 43 percent.
The biggest offenders were Will DiIorio, Royce Woolridge and Jordan Railey with four misses each from the stripe.
“There might have been a lid on there,” Woolridge said. “We hadn’t played in this gym in about 21 days … we need to get more free throws up. That’s a huge concept to win. We dodged a bullet.”
The victory, which elevates WSU to 5-4 on the season and drops Pepperdine to 6-5, was fueled by accuracy from the field. While the Cougs continued to struggle from downtown (27 percent), they took eight fewer three-point attempts than their average and, in the process, wound up shooting a highly respectable 54 percent overall from the field.
Indeed, the Cougs scored 42 of their points in the paint.
Interestingly, the most accurate field-goal shooters were Woolridge (7 of 10) and Railey (4 of 6).
Woolridge led all scorers with 20 points, while Railey chipped in 10. Que Johnson, with 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the field, was the only other Cougs in double figures.
Woolridge scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half.
Lacy, who has led WSU in scoring every game this season, was held to nine points, but that was OK with Bone.
“DeVonte, he’s so unselfish, he just wants to win,” Bone said. “And that’s huge for our team.”
Lacy may not have been the leading scorer, but he was a workhorse. He led the team in minutes played with 33, had four steals, led the team in rebounds with eight and was 4-of-7 from the floor.
Bone said having other assume more of the scoring burden could help going forward because teams can’t just focus on stopping Lacy.
Bone said if Woolridge can get a little rest for his ailing wrist, he should have more games like this one.
“He continues to pick his time during games to attack and it was nice to see him tonight drill that 3 (with 7:14 left in the game, giving WSU a 63-54 lead),” Bone said. “He’s got a bad wrist and he’s trying to do what he can with it, but it needs a rest.”
Woolridge banged up his wrist against Gonzaga, and even though there is nothing structurally wrong, it is sore, and Bone said every time Woolridge shoots, he aggravates the wrist.
“I believe it is strongly affecting him,” Bone said.
RAILEY AND JOHNSON, BOTH first-year players, had their best games this season. In addition to his 14 points, Johnson had three boards, an assist and a steal in 26 minutes, while Railey finished with five rebounds, three blocks and an assist. In addition to his 10 points, in 23 minutes. He fouled out with 7:31 left in the game.
Johnson said both he and Railey have been working on being more aggressive, not just with the basketball, but in all aspects of the game. Railey said it is taking a while, but he thinks the two of them are becoming the kind of players the coaches are looking for.
“Yeah, we’re getting more comfortable,” Railey said. “Que and I both sat out practically two straight years. Both redshirting last year, and kind the year before it was iffy as far as playing time. So both of us (are) getting in that groove, getting into the flow of things.”
True freshman post Josh Hawkinson played a career high 13 minutes against the Waves. He scored two points -- going 2-for-2 from the free-throw line in the final three minutes – and grabbed 5 rebounds. He also had a block and a steal. “He’s performing well,” Bone said. “He’s a freshman but pretty poised. He stepped up and made free throws on a night where we were pathetic.”
On Wednesday WSU will be in Kennewick hosting San Francisco State. “We get a lot of support in the Tri-Cities,” Woolridge said. “It’s a nice arena. … I love playing in the Tri-Cities. Love the fan base.” Tip for Wednesday’s game will be 7 p.m.
Following the game in Kennewick, WSU will be back at Friel to host UTEP on Dec. 21 and Mississippi Valley on Dec. 28. They then open Pac-12 play at Arizona on Jan. 2.