The Washington State men’s basketball team remained in survival mode Saturday, defiantly absorbing yet another sledgehammer to the sternum.
“We just gotta keep working,” said forward Steve Slotemaker. “That gets old, saying we gotta keep working, but if we don’t, it’ll get worse.”
The Cougars’ 75-69 overtime loss to USC stayed to the usual script: Carlos Daniel had 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 39-brick, 18-turnover effort by the supporting cast.
Out of answers and out of options, the Cougars are not out of hope, although the supply could stand replenishing.
“We’re going to win some games - we’re playing too hard not to,” coach Kevin Eastman said.
USC won largely because WSU, after clawing into a 56-56 tie with 1:17 left in regulation, failed to convert on six scoring opportunities.
The Trojans seemed rejuvenated once overtime began, and the Cougars barely had a chance. USC guards Elias Ayuso and Kevin Augustine each scored four points as the Trojans, fueled by three WSU turnovers, took a 68-61 lead with 52.8 seconds left.
When the final horn sounded, USC had won for only the third time in its last 14 games - despite shooting 36.5 percent, committing 16 turnovers and getting outrebounded 49-43.
“I’ll take a win,” said USC (7-12) coach Henry Bibby, whose team improved to 3-6 in the Pacific-10 Conference. “You’d think after losing 11 of our last 13 that our guys would give up, but they didn’t. Things fell our way.”
Nothing was falling for WSU’s Chris Crosby, who made 2 of 11 field goals and committed five turnovers. The 6-foot-7 sophomore is shooting 34 percent in Pac-10 play, compared to 52.7 in the Cougars’ first 11 games.
Slotemaker started in Crosby’s usual spot and played well early, shutting down Adam Spanich, who had been USC’s leading scorer. But Slotemaker committed several ill-advised fouls and ended up fouling out with 6:52 left in regulation, after playing only 15 minutes.
Slotemaker’s foul problems meant more playing time for Crosby. More suffering, too.
Nineteen seconds after Crosby checked into the lineup with 13:48 left in the first half, Spanich swished a 3-pointer from the left corner.
In the next 3 minutes, Crosby was outmuscled by Spanich for a rebound; committed a turnover after chasing down his own 3-point miss; and had an inbounds pass intercepted.
Another 3-minute stretch, this one coming midway through the second half, saw Crosby commit three more turnovers, including two wayward inbounds passes that helped the Trojans take a 46-39 lead with 9:33 remaining.
“I really don’t know what to say right now,” Crosby said. “The only thing I can tell you, come Monday, I have to get back to work. I’ve just got to relax - coach has faith in me, the team relies on me and I just have to play the way I was playing back in September.”
Crosby’s nosedive has mirrored WSU’s. At 8-12 overall and 1-8 in the Pac-10, the Cougars are tied for last place with Oregon State. Their five-game losing streak matches the longest in four seasons under Eastman.
WSU shot just 37 percent, committing 20 turnovers. Aside from Daniel, point guard Blake Pengelly and forward Kojo Mensah-Bonsu were the only Cougars in double figures.
Pengelly had 10 points and seven assists, while Mensah-Bonsu had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double at WSU.
Augustine led USC with 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Southern Cal 75, WSU 69 (OT)
Washington State (8-12) - Daniel 8-15 6-6 22, Slotemaker 1-2 0-0 3, Nelson 3-5 0-0 6, Kazadi 3-12 0-0 7, Pengelly 4-11 0-2 10, Hutchens 1-4 1-2 3, Mensah-Bonsu 5-13 4-4 14, Crosby 2-11 0-0 4. Totals 27-73 11-14 69.
USC (7-12) - Williams 0-4 2-2 2, White 3-7 2-5 8, Lakey 5-6 4-8 14, Johnson 1-3 3-4 6, Spanich 2-9 3-4 9, Augustine 4-9 7-9 15, Trepagnier 3-6 2-2 8, Ayuso 3-10 2-4 9, Turner 0-4 0-2 0, Swillis 2-0 0-0 4. Totals 23-63 25-40 75.
Halftime-Washington St. 25, USC 23. Regulation-Washington St. 56, USC 56. 3-Point goals-Washington St. 4-18 (Pengelly 2-7, Slotemaker 1-2, Kazadi 1-4, Hutchens 0-1, Crosby 0-4), USC 4-18 (Spanich 2-8, Johnson 1-1, Ayuso 1-5, Trepagnier 0-1, Turner 0-1, Williams 0-2). Fouled out-Slotemaker, Kazadi, Mensah-Bonsu. Rebounds-Washington St. 49 (Daniel 12), USC 43 (Lakey 8). Assists-Washington St. 17 (Pengelly 7), USC 11 (Augustine 3). Total fouls-Washington St. 31, USC 16. A-2,681.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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