PULLMAN — No sooner had public address announcer Glenn Johnson announced the final score of Sunday afternoon’s basketball game at Washington State — “Cougars 59, Fresno State 50” — than a cynic along press row chimed in with a comment.
“Was that the score,” the man cracked, “or the number of turnovers?”
The Cougars, coming off a gritty performance in a two-point loss to 10th-ranked Gonzaga, combined with Fresno State to produce 31 turnovers and at least that many ugly plays. Two WSU starters, D.J. Shelton and Dexter Kernich-Drew, failed to score.
Final exams start today at WSU, and Cougars coach Ken Bone smiled wryly when a reporter suggested his players might be tired.
“Going off what I just saw,” Bone said sarcastically, “I think they’re very fatigued, mentally and physically.”
Still, the Cougars (6-4) improved to 6-1 at home by notching their first win over a team with a winning record. The game was close until WSU outscored the Bulldogs (5-4) 9-2 over the final 41/2 minutes at Beasley Coliseum.
“That last eight or 10 minutes, I thought we played pretty good basketball,” Bone said.
The smallish Bulldogs battled WSU to a draw on the boards and had three fewer turnovers (14), but they shot 30 percent from the field. That included a ghastly 2-for-20 showing from 3-point range.
“For them to get 16 offensive rebounds was disappointing,” Bone said. “But when they miss 18 3’s, it’s hard to block out.”
Brock Motum, cheered on by a touring youth basketball team from his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, led the Cougars in scoring for the eighth time this season (counting one tie) with 23 points. He scored all 13 of WSU’s points in the final 14 minutes of the first half.
“I had no idea,” Motum said.
“Motum once again had to bail us out with his scoring,” Bone said. “They never doubled him, which surprised me.”
Cougars senior guard Mike Ladd, who spent two seasons at Fresno State, tied his season high of 19 points.
“There was some motivation,” Ladd admitted.
Ladd transferred to Washington State before second-year coach Rodney Terry arrived at Fresno State.
“We could have used him,” Terry understated.
The Bulldogs missed 16 of 17 shots in the last 111/2 minutes before a quiet crowd announced at 2,651.
“They’re a great defensive team,” Terry said.
Reserve forward Jerry Brown led Fresno State with 12 points. Robert Upshaw, a 7-foot freshman center who was recruited by WSU, Louisville, UCLA, Arizona and plenty of other schools, started for the first time for his hometown Bulldogs. He produced 10 points (all in the first half), seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
“He’s got a chance to be a pro,” Bone said.
Jackson State of Mississippi visits WSU on Thursday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network).