Another one bites the dust: Cougs fall to USC

PULLMAN – After losing what he called a "huge opportunity" for a victory, Royce Woolridge admitted Thursday's game plan was to allow USC to shoot until they started knocking them down. Unfortunately for the Cougars, that strategy proved only partially effective as they ended up on the wrong side of a 16-2 second-half run en route to a 79-68 loss.

Washington State (9-20, 2-15 Pac-12) led by a point at the break and opened up the second half with an 8-0 run until a dunk by USC's D.J. Haley halted their momentum and turned the tide for the remainder of the game in front of a paltry crowd of 2,113.

"One of the things that went wrong, we did not convert and the other is they really got going offensively," said coach Ken Bone. "They did a nice job of picking up the momentum and the tempo of the game favored them.

"They made a couple tough shots during that stretch that really hurt us."

USC (11-19, 2-15) wasn't exactly lights out from outside, though, as the Trojans shot just 6 of 19 from the from beyond the arc, four of which in the second half. The Cougars didn't help themselves on the offensive end, either, shooting just 29 percent from the field in the latter half of the contest, including 10 of 35 from the 3-point range.

DaVonté Lacy led the way with 20 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Bone said he felt fatigue played a role in the second half, which came as a surprise considering his team had multiple days off following its loss to Washington.

Points in transition fueled the Trojans' attack midway through the game and they tallied 16 points off Cougar miscues.

Dexter Kernich-Drew said the Trojans' full-court press proved to be troublesome, particularly in the second half.

"We got lazy toward the end of the first half and through some pretty questionable passes in the second half," he said. "We didn't take care of the ball or have the focus that we needed to when that happens."

Early in the game, Woolridge showed flashes of the offensive game that has been absent all season. He knocked down a pair 3-pointers which he said were a result of shooting with confidence, and benefitting from a fast-paced style of play.

Woolridge scored nine of his 12 points in the opening period, but along with the rest of the team his game sputtered in the second half.

"The turnovers and other stuff, it just gets you out of the flow of the game," he said. "Turnovers, which led to their transition buckets, hurt us. I don't think it was necessarily them being better than us – they are a great basketball team – but we really hurt ourselves."

Bone said the game was "no doubt" his team's best chance to get a win and build momentum heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

Washington State's regular-season finale is slated for 8 p.m. on Saturday against UCLA (23-7, 12-5).

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Of the 35 attempts the Cougars attempted from long range, four came from D.J. Shelton, who for the second straight game failed to connect from distance. Bone said Shelton has always been a streaky shooter but that he would like to see the senior find shots elsewhere before attempting 3-pointers.

    Shelton finished the night with 11 points and 11 boards to notch his 11th double-double of the season.

  • The Cougars were outscored 40-22 in the paint and out-rebounded 40-34.
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