PULLMAN – Basketball schedules show no mercy when feasting on the weak.
Game after game, week after week, loss after loss. The pain, suffering and frustration never end for the hapless in hoops.
There was a time when losing in basketball at Washington State was as common as snowfall once winter arrived. However, the 2012-13 season appears destined to become the Cougars’ first losing campaign since 2005-06, and possibly their first 20-loss season since 2002-03.
“It’s been disappointing,” summed up Brock Motum, WSU’s standout senior forward from Brisbane, Australia. “We’ve lost so many tight games ... our record could be a whole lot different.”
The Cougars, last in the Pacific-12 Conference with three games left in league play, are 11-17 overall and 2-13 in the conference. They carry an eight-game losing streak into Sunday’s game at Washington (12:30 p.m., Root Sports).
“Everyone is still giving 100 percent effort,” Motum said. “We’ll never give up on the season. I know that for a fact.
“We just have to win some of those close games.”
So relentlessly optimistic is Motum that he almost casually mentions the possibility of the Cougars winning four games in four days in Las Vegas to win the Pac-12 tournament and “get a free ticket to the NCAA tournament.”
Similarly, he talks matter-of-factly about his desire to fulfill “my dream” of playing in the NBA next season, even though his name is nowhere to be found in draft projections. As for public rumblings about coach Ken Bone’s future, Motum simply said, “It doesn’t affect us at all.”
Motum leads the Cougars and ranks third in the Pac-12 with 17.9 points a game. That’s almost the same as his conference-leading average of 18.0 last season. He also leads WSU with career highs of 6.2 rebounds and 34.8 minutes played.
Noteworthy, however, is that Motum has already taken eight more shots in six fewer games than last season. Also, his field-goal shooting percentage has slipped from 55.4 a year ago to 44.7.
Mind you, 44.7 percent ranks first among Cougars averaging at least two field-goal attempts a game. Motum leads the league with 405 field-goal attempts, but he can scarcely be accused of shameless gunning because only six Cougars average more than 2.8 points. Bone said second-leading scorer Mike Ladd is expected to miss a fifth consecutive game Sunday with a knee injury.
The 6-foot-10, 245-pound Motum can score from all over the court, and he’s on pace to finish fifth on WSU’s career scoring list. He admits to occasionally spending too much time away from the basket this season, when baskets have not come easy with defenses focusing more attention on him, and not having the drive-and-dish skills of former point guard Reggie Moore.
“Reggie was a true point guard,” Motum noted. “A true pass-first point guard. He was so unselfish.”
Motum has stressed all season his appreciation for the efforts of Ladd and Royce Woolridge, two natural wings who have split the point guard duties. Still, Moore’s dismissal prior to the season for violating undisclosed team rules all but ruled out a third consecutive postseason tournament for the Cougars.
Motum, who unsuccessfully tried out for the Australian Olympic team last summer, gave some thought to turning pro after last season. Despite a senior season he describes as “disappointing” and “frustrating,” Motum (who will graduate in May with a psychology degree) insists, “I’m glad I came back.”
“I fulfilled my four years of school,” he said. “I had the full college experience. I made a lot of great friends. I hung out with a lot of great people.
“I like the town of Pullman. I’m going to miss it, but I’m looking forward to my next journey in life, so to speak.”