PULLMAN — Most Washington State fans wore white shirts to Saturday night’s basketball game as part of a Coaches vs. Cancer promotion.
In retrospect, white flags would have been more appropriate.
The Wildcats, living up to their No. 8 national ranking, blasted the outmanned Cougars, 79-65, in Pacific-12 Conference men’s basketball. Point guard Mark Lyons led the Wildcats with 20 points, but it was the 18 points of forward Solomon Hill – all in the first half, and all on a career-high six 3-pointers – that sent the Cougars reeling early.
“A very, very good team exposed us (on defense),” WSU coach Ken Bone said.
Bone was referring specifically to the Cougars’ inability to sag down low to deal with Arizona’s inside offensive game while still paying proper attention to the perimeter.
“We got caught in bad situations,” summed up WSU junior forward D.J. Shelton.
Hill, a four-year starter who has improved his 3-point shooting every season, made the Cougars pay dearly for giving him ample room outside.
“He’s mostly known for going to the basket,” WSU guard Royce Woolridge said.
Said Hill of the WSU defense: “They went under a lot of screens. You go under a lot of screens – especially as a senior, I’ve put in a lot of work – I feel it’s disrespect.
“If you look at (Washington’s) C.J. Wilcox or anybody that can really shoot the ball, you’re not going under screens.”
The victory, combined with Oregon’s loss at California and Arizona State’s loss at Washington, pushed Arizona (19-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12) into a first-place conference tie with the Ducks.
The Cougars (11-11, 2-7), meanwhile, dropped to just a half-game ahead of last-place Oregon State at the midway point in the Pac-12 schedule. WSU visits USC on Thursday (8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Washington State trailed 40-26 at halftime Saturday, and the score flattered the home team. The Cougars, try as they might, simply lacked the skill necessary to keep pace with the high-flying Wildcats.
Eight WSU turnovers in the opening half – six in the first 7 minutes, 3 seconds – did not help. The Cougars struggled at both ends of the court with senior point guard Mike Ladd limited to 4 minutes in the half because of three fouls. He finished with two points.
Lyons, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, also saw plenty of bench time in the first half because of foul trouble. The Wildcats never missed a beat, even after sixth man Kevin Parrom was ejected for a flagrant foul midway through the first half. A third key guard, Nick Johnson, was ill and scored just six points.
Brock Motum and DaVonté Lacy led WSU with 15 points apiece. Woolridge added 14, and Shelton had 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds before 6,002 fans.
Arizona sank 11 of 30 treys, compared with 6-of-19 shooting for WSU.