CORVALLIS, Ore. – They slashed, they defended, they made open shots like they were playing at Beasley.
After this 83-73 blitzing of Oregon State before 5,782 at Gill Coliseum, the Washington State Cougars men’s basketball team could finally celebrate a conference road victory.
And though the Cougars lost their previous five Pac-12 games away from home, the result itself wasn’t nearly as impressive as the process.
WSU (13-11, 5-7) didn’t just beat Oregon State (15-9, 5-7) here last night. It stiff-armed the Beavers for the better part of 40 minutes with smart passes that led to open looks, sound defense that forced 14 turnovers, and a level of focus and intensity not yet seen from this group away from home this season.
“We had good focus, we played really well together as a team, we shared the ball well,” coach Ken Bone said. “We played a very good game against a good team.”
It was an effort spearheaded by junior point guard Reggie Moore, whose first turnover of the game came on the possession following his 11th assist – he had nine of those in the first half – by which point WSU led by 14 points, as it did for most of the second half
Sophomore forward D.J. Shelton played his most valuable minutes of the season, scoring a career-high 14 points in 24 minutes while grabbing a career-high nine rebounds. Marcus Capers dunked four times and added 12 points. The most emphatic of those flushes was a two-handed alley-oop thrown by Moore off an inbounds pass that gave WSU a 55-38 lead with 15:32 to play.
Oh, and junior forward Brock Motum went ahead and scored his usual, ho-hum 24 points, skewering Oregon State for the second time this season.
Motum poured in 26 points in an 81-76 win over the Beavers on Dec. 31.
“If we can do this for the rest of the year, I think we’ll be in good shape to win some more games,” Motum said. “I think we did a really good job tonight. The whole team stepped up.”
The Cougars’ effort rarely relented in the second half, but they made their firmest statement late in the first when a 12-0 run sparked by Shelton helped put WSU in front 46-31 at the break.
OSU tried pressing. That resulted in an easy bucket for Motum and a wide-open 3-pointer for DaVonte Lacy, who made all three of his long-range shots and scored 10 points. The Beavers tried trapping in the halfcourt. That led to more dunks, more open 3s, a pair of them by Lodwick early in the first half.
OSU’s 1-3-1 zone didn’t work, either. Against an efficient, unselfish WSU team, nothing did.
“Whatever you do, we’ve got an answer for it,” said Moore, who set a season-high with the assist total and scored 10 points. “If you want to press us, I’m going to go to the hoop. If you want to stay back we’re going to shoot some 3s.”
A lull late in the second half allowed the Beavers to cut the lead to nine points with 1:26 remaining, but the Cougars made 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch, and their lead was never challenged.
Jared Cunningham, the conference’s leading scorer, looked the part. He finished with 33 points on 10-of-20 shooting, but the rest of his team made just 12 of 39, a defensive effort Bone said may have been aided by the fact that OSU simply didn’t play very well.
“I like the fact that our defense did a decent job,” Bone said, “but I think it was partially that Oregon State didn’t play as well as they’re capable of playing.”