PULLMAN — Coach Ken Bone and the Washington State men’s basketball team spent 15 minutes talking in the locker room after Sunday’s 71-44 loss to Oregon.
They talked about staying focused in spite of a seven-game stretch that has produced just one win, about preparing for Saturday’s game against Washington, and about how Oregon (14-5, 2-5 Pac-12) is better than its record.
“The mood of the locker room is basically we’ve just got to stay together and just keep working hard,” guard Royce Woolridge said. “Just get better, and we might have lost a couple games in a row, but if we hold our heads down, it’s just going to get worse.”
Most important, they talked about making shots, a fundamental requirement that has eluded the Cougars (8-12, 1-7) often this season.
“If a guy has never been able to prove it, I understand it. Maybe the level’s a little too high. The
quickness, the length, the athleticism of the opponent — it’s hard to get shots off,” Bone said. “I’ve seen it before. But we have guys that have proven they can shoot it and get their shot off at this level and shoot it at a pretty decent percentage, and unfortunately this year we have not done it.”
Que Johnson’s nine points led the Cougars, who were outrebounded, 43-24. At halftime, Oregon had nine offensive rebounds to WSU’s five defensive rebounds. WSU also struggled at the line, making 16 out of 25 attempts.
The Cougars made just a pair of two-point field goals and were 8-for-26 on 3-point attempts. While WSU’s guards were often able to find open shooters behind the arc, even open looks were a challenge.
“We’re getting some pretty good shots,” Bone said. “At the free-throw line, they’re wide open, they’re not contesting them, and we’re not shooting real well from there, either. At some point, guys have to make some shots.”
The Cougars have averaged a little more than 49 points in the seven conference games they’ve played without leading scorer DaVonté Lacy. Earlier in the season, Bone said Lacy, a former Curtis High School standout, might be able to return from his rib injury by Saturday’s game against UW, but that looks unlikely.
Lacy has yet to return to practice save for some individual shooting drills and a few minutes in a passing drill.
The Ducks entered the game ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense while giving up 77.9 points per game. But WSU, the lowest-scoring team in the conference by almost 10 points, had one of its worst offensive nights of the season.
In front of an announced crowd of 3,866, the Cougars were 10-for-40 from the floor (25 percent). They were saved from an even more uncomfortable final margin by Brett Boese’s two 3-pointers over the game’s final 73 seconds.
The Ducks, who got 20 points from Jason Calliste, made 26 field goals to stop a five-game skid.
Individual players have had big games for the Cougars, but those isolated efforts have not translated into wins. Last week, D.J. Shelton had 24 points in a loss to Oregon State, and Dexter Kernich-Drew scored 24 points in WSU’s overtime loss to Colorado on Jan. 8.
“I really thought we were going to be a better shooting team,” Bone said. “We talked about it as a staff early in the year — just getting shots up in the summer and in the fall, certain guys made shots, and we have shot extremely poor, and it’s hard to win if you don’t make baskets.”