PULLMAN – Sitting and watching can do funny things to basketball players.
At least it did to DaVonte Lacy, who missed four games with a knee injury before rejuvenating his season with a breakout game against Gonzaga last week.
“Sitting back, I just looked at the game and saw the way I was approaching the game,” Lacy said. “And I didn’t like it.”
The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard scored 15 points in Washington State’s season opener against Eastern Washington, then his production decreased in each of the Cougars’ next three games – and against Kansas on Nov. 19, Lacy played just five minutes before leaving with a left knee injury.
That’s when the sitting began. Lacy’s knee was too swollen to evaluate for a number of days after the injury, and he wound up missing WSU’s next four games before returning to score a career-high 22 points in a 71-69 loss Wednesday to No. 10 Gonzaga.
That new, more aggressive approach could be on display again at noon Sunday when the Cougars (5-4) host Fresno State (5-3) at Beasley Coliseum.
“People say they sit out a whole year from like, an ACL injury, and then they feel like they can’t wait to come back,” said Lacy, one of two returning starters for WSU this season. “They’re going to approach the game differently. I was blessed to not be out a whole season, but a couple games, and I just didn’t like it, and I didn’t like how I approached the game before.
“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just get it next game, or bounce back next game,’ and you never know when your last game is. So I just felt like I’m going to just start playing different than how I was.”
It’s a welcome change for a WSU team still searching for a consistent scoring complement to senior forward Brock Motum, who leads the team, to nobody’s surprise, with 19.3 points per game.
It was the duo of Motum and Lacy who kept the Cougars in Wednesday’s game. They combined for 45 of the team’s 69 points, and each made a number of big-time shots down the stretch to keep Gonzaga from pulling away.
That was despite Lacy’s “terrible” first half, as he described it, during which he made 1 of 3 from 3-point range and 2 of 6 from the field.
He made three of his six attempts from 3-point range in the second half, and finished 8 of 15 from the field.
“I didn’t expect that,” coach Ken Bone said. “I thought he might play around 20 minutes. He ended up playing more than that – 28. He looked pretty good, and then he was confident at the end.”
But can Lacy keep it up? He’s doing everything he can from a training perspective, icing his knee regularly and putting in time in WSU’s HydroWorx therapy pool on days off.
WSU will be without junior guard Will DiIorio, who will miss the next two to three weeks after spraining his left ankle against Gonzaga.
Junior guard Allen Huddleston is the only Fresno State player who scores in double figures, averaging 12.5 points per game. Both Huddleston and Tyler Johnson shoot better than 40 percent from 3-point range.