SEATTLE — Growing up in Tacoma, DaVonte Lacy’s favorite Seattle SuperSonics player was sweet-shooting Ray Allen.
Friday night, Lacy made a triumphant return to KeyArena – as a player, not a fan – and he delivered a convincing impersonation of Allen in Washington State’s 65-54 victory over Buffalo in the annual Cougar Hardwood Classic.
Lacy, a sophomore guard out of Curtis High School, was 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range to lead all scorers with 19 points.
“It’s all off my teammates,” Lacy insisted, “because they see how I’m going. They see my shots going (down), they find me, they set screens for me.”
Lacy made four out of five 3-pointers in the first half, but the Cougars trailed at halftime, 37-35. It was defense, not offense, that turned the game in WSU’s favor.
After the Bulls hit 56 percent of their shots in the first half – including 7-for-11 on 3-pointers – the Cougars held Buffalo to 20.7 percent shooting (2-for-10 on 3’s) in the second half. WSU gave up just 17 second-half points to the delight of 7,269 fans.
WSU coach Ken Bone said a much-improved effort on defense after halftime was key to the victory.
“The toughness, the grit (on defense) was what made the difference,” Bone said.
Much of that toughness and grit was provided by reserve guard Will DiIorio. The former walk-on from Bainbridge High, who wasn’t even certain to play after missing two games because of a sprained ankle, started for Royce Woolridge in the second half and delivered a rebound here, took a foul there, hit two key free throws late – just about everything the Cougars needed.
“I just love how Will plays as hard as he can,” Bone said.
Said DiIorio: “Bring energy – that’s my main thing. Go out and compete. Dive for loose balls.”
Freshman forward Junior Longrus, who did not play in the first half, also boosted WSU’s energy level in the second half.
“He’s just a responsible guy you can trust,” Bone said.
Bone always trusts Brock Motum to fill the basket, but WSU’s big man struggled much of the game.
Motum still finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, and his back-to-back putback buckets erased Buffalo’s final lead (49-48).
Buffalo (4-8) had a two-game winning streak snapped.
The Cougars (8-4), who have won three consecutive games and six out of seven, improved to 8-0 all-time in Cougar Hardwood Classics, WSU’s annual Seattle “home” game.
The Cougars wrap up non-conference play against Idaho State in Kennewick (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network) on Dec. 29.