PULLMAN — It seems as if college basketball teams are putting up some of the worst scoring numbers and shooting percentages in decades, and the Washington State Cougars did nothing to help matters Saturday night at Beasley Coliseum.
The Cougars, every bit as frosty indoors as the weather outside, were held to a season low 19 first-half points in a 58-49 Pacific-12 Conference loss to Colorado.
The Buffaloes were far from scintillating, but they didn’t have to be on a night when the Cougars shot 34.5 percent from the field (20-for-58), 20.8 percent on 3-pointers (5-for-24) and 44.4 percent at the free-throw line (4-for-9).
Washington State coach Ken Bone and Cougars scoring leader Brock Motum took turns trying to come up with the best understatement for WSU’s offensive performance.
“We did not play very well offensively,” Bone said.
Said Motum: “We have a lot of room for improvement.”
Bone again: “We need to execute better than that.”
There were seven ties and 11 lead changes. Colorado led 23-19 at the end of an ugly first half, and the Buffs outscored WSU 23-14 after Motum’s 3-pointer gave the Cougars their final lead at 37-35 with 10:26 left to play.
“You’ve got to give credit to them,” Motum said. “They executed really well down the stretch.”
Added Cougars guard Mike Ladd: “We gave poor effort down the stretch. We need to be more aggressive.”
Washington State’s lack of aggressiveness helped explain the Buffaloes’ 24-9 advantage in free-throw attempts.
“They took it to the rim, and they got a lot of calls,” Motum said.
The Buffaloes (12-6, 2-4 Pac-12) had been 0-3 in conference road games. Senior guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored eight of his game-high 16 points in the final nine minutes to spark Colorado.
“You’ve got to grind out wins (on the road),” Dinwiddie said. “You’ve got to find ways to win ugly games. You’ve got to be able to ride defense and rebounding.”
Motum tied Ladd for WSU scoring honors with 13 points, but that’s a season low for Motum. Defended much of the way by athletic NBA prospect Andre Roberson, Motum sank 5 of 16 shots.
“Colorado’s a good defensive team,” Bone said. “I thought their quickness bothered us.”
Roberson scored four points, but he added seven rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Colorado freshmen Xavier Johnson (14 points) and Josh Scott (11) combined for 25 points, which is 25 more points than the two WSU freshmen who played (Junior Longrus and Bryce Leavitt).
The Cougars, who have started Pac-12 play 1-4 for the second year in a row, are 10-8 overall and next see action Wednesday at No. 21 Oregon (16-2, 5-0).
The Cougars likely will be blown out early in Eugene if they repeat Saturday’s first-half performance. WSU shot 29.6 percent from the field (8-for-27) in the half, including 16.7 percent from 3-point range (2-for-12), and committed nine turnovers.
WSU shot better and limited its turnovers to three in the second half, but it was too late. A crowd of 5,418 left the arena mumbling after watching the Cougars play so poorly just one game after all five starters scored in double figures in a 75-65 win over Utah.