“It’s getting better,” Ladd said Wednesday night.
That’s interesting, because Ladd contributed mightily to another sleepless night for Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak in Washington State’s 75-65 triumph at Beasley Coliseum.
Ladd led five Cougars in double figures with 22 points, tying a career high he set as a freshman with Fresno State at New Mexico State on Feb. 14, 2009.
“I let the game come to me,” Ladd said. “With the offense we ran and with Utah focusing on Brock (Motum) so much, it left guys open.
“I was one of the guys. My teammates found me.”
It’s no secret that teams have been double-teaming Motum down low and daring Washington State’s guards to beat them. Ladd and backcourt partners Royce Woolridge (14 points) and former Curtis High star DaVonté Lacy (10) buried 8 of 14 shots from 3-point range. Ladd tied a career high of five treys, going 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Lacy, who did not attempt a field goal last Saturday at California, had been 0-for-9 on 3s in Pacific-12 Conference play. Urged to stay aggressive by teammates and coach Ken Bone, Lacy launched WSU’s first three shots Wednesday – all 3-pointers – and made two after his first shot went awry.
“I knew one was going to fall eventually,” Lacy said with a grin. “I couldn’t miss for the rest of my life.”
“We had a little talk yesterday,” Bone said. “I said, ‘If you don’t get a 3 tomorrow, I’m just going to tell people you’re not a very good shooter, just got lucky your first year.’ ”
Bone was joking, of course. He was delighted that Lacy, a sophomore, joined teammates in playing aggressively and shooting well against a Utah team that was leading the Pac-12 in field-goal-shooting defense at 36.5 percent.
That’s one of the best marks in the country, but WSU shot 50 percent – including 55 percent (11 for 20) on 3-pointers. The 11 treys was a season high, and the 75 points was WSU’s highest total since a season-opening 88-69 win over Eastern Washington.
“I liked the way our guys started out,” Bone said. “I thought they did a great job that first four or five minutes.”
WSU led from the opening basket. It was 34-26 at halftime, and the Cougars led by as many as 17 points in the second half before an announced crowd of 4,240.
“We’ve got to come out stronger,” said Utah freshman guard Brandon Taylor, who led the Utes with 13 points. “We’re not coming out strong at all. It’s like we’ve got to wait until we’re down … 10, eight points until we start playing.”
Motum finished with 14 points after going scoreless with four turnovers in a rough first half. He hit a momentum-blunting 3-pointer after Utah cut its deficit to six with 91/2 minutes left.
“I guess the 3 was a big shot,” Motum said, “but it was our defense the whole night that won us the game.”
The Cougars (10-7, 1-3 Pac-12) snapped a three-game losing streak. The win prevented them from replacing Utah (8-9, 0-5) in the conference cellar.
D.J. Shelton scored 10 points for the Cougars, who forced 17 turnovers.