PULLMAN – Washington State had two opponents it had to overcome Tuesday night before 6,024 fans at Beasley Coliseum.
One was the Idaho Vandals, the Cougars’ rival from down the road in Moscow, who they have been playing for 104 years. They dealt with them, riding a 15-0 second-half run to a convincing 88-71 victory.
The other was adversity, most notably in the form of a cast on the left wrist of sophomore point guard Reggie Moore.
Moore, a Pacific-10 Conference all-freshman team selection last season, will be out as he deals with a slightly fractured scaphoid bone. He didn’t play in the opener against Southern and may not be back until next month.
“He’s hoping it will heal quickly,” said WSU coach Ken Bone. “I’m not a doctor, so I’m not exactly sure what the percentages are, but they’re not great.”
Without Moore, the Cougars’ offense morphed into a longer-range one against the Vandals (1-1).
“I feel like we shoot more 3s,” said post DeAngelo Casto, one of three Cougars in double figures with 10 – on just six shots. “Reggie’s such a penetrator, if you don’t guard him he’s getting layups or he’s dishing off to the bigs.”
WSU hit seven of its first 10 shots to jump ahead 17-2 – with Faisal Aden pouring in seven of his game-high 26 – but frittered almost all of it away as Jeff Ledbetter came off the bench to drain four 3-pointers.
Behind his 12 first-half points – Ledbetter finished with 18 on 6-of-9 shooting beyond the arc – the lead was 43-38 at the half.
“They jumped on us quick,” said Idaho coach Don Verlin. “Klay (Thompson) hit a couple shots, Faisal hit a couple shots, we had a couple miscues in our defensive assignments and they were up 17-2.
“But I thought we did a good job of battling back and making a game of it.”
“It’s a lot different without Reggie, the depth at guard is a lot slimmer,” said Thompson, who took up the slack with a career-high nine assists – only three turnovers – to complement his 23 points. “Obviously we are not as good without him, but we’re still a really good team.”
That lack of depth showed in the Vandals’ runs, as the 6-foot-3 Ledbetter, 5-11 Landon Tatum, who came off the bench to add quickness and 12 points, and 6-8 Luiz Toledo (13 points, five rebounds) helped UI cut the lead to 49-47 with 16 minutes, 25 seconds to play.
“We came right back,” Bone said. “Last year there were games where we did not deal with that type of adversity very well.”
The Cougars (2-0) dealt with it by going on a 15-0 run fueled by defense – UI had seven consecutive turnovers and eight in nine possessions – and offense from Aden and freshman Patrick Simon, who combined for 12 of the points.
Simon came off the bench to commit three consecutive fouls while UI pulled within two. He expected to sit right back down. But Bone stayed with him and Simon rewarded the confidence.
“He stayed with me and kind of built me up,” Simon said of Bone leaving him on the floor. “I thought, ‘OK, I’m good to go here.’”
Now the Cougars will have to figure out a way to be confident despite not having Moore on the court. It will probably start with Thompson.
“He’s getting better and better at handling the ball and distributing it,” Bone said. “We’re going to need him and other guys to do that. He can’t be the only one because we need him to shoot it too.”