PULLMAN – Washington State beat Arizona State so badly here on Saturday that Cougars guard Marcus Capers was in the mood to boast a little afterward.
Not about his nine points, seven assists, 10 rebounds or masterful execution from the high post against ASU’s 2-3 zone. Instead, Capers sat at the postgame media table after his team’s 72-50 win, spit a few bars of a freestyle rap, then explained that his pregame dance moves were the inspiration for WSU’s air-tight defensive effort in the first half.
DaVonte Lacy, seated to Capers’ right, rolled his eyes.
“He didn’t do nothin’,” the freshman guard said, drawing laughs from several in the room. “He moved around a little bit, and he thinks he can dance or something like that. This is not ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ He thinks he got us going, but we got ourselves going.”
That much cannot be disputed. The Cougars (14-13, 6-9 Pac-12) began the game on a 13-2 run, which turned into a 21-5 run, which became one giant, 20-minute run that had WSU leading 36-8 at halftime.
By that point, Lacy had nearly doubled ASU’s point total by himself, scoring 14 of his team-high 17 in the first half. The Sun Devils committed more than three times as many turnovers (10) as they had made field goals (three), clanging their way to a 16.7 percent mark.
An active man-to-man defense, coupled with some disastrous shooting by the visitors, amounted to the fewest points the Cougars have allowed in a half in the shot clock era.
“I thought our guys were really locked in mentally and understood where their shooters were,” coach Ken Bone said.
So pathetic was ASU’s first-half offense that WSU’s student section – decked out in gray T-shirts as part of a “gray-out” promotion – taunted the Sun Devils with chants of “single digits” and “just like football.” And when ASU finally broke the double-digit barrier on a dunk by Jordan Bachynski in the opening seconds of the second half, they were greeted by mock cheers from Beasley Coliseum crowd of 5,218.
“I think at the start we just blew them out of the water, and then it was a process of just maintaining our lead,” said Brock Motum, who scored 16 points.
That task could have been executed a little better. ASU (8-19, 4-11) remembered how to put the ball in the hoop immediately after halftime, using a full-court press to force some turnovers that led to a 23-7 run.
“I think we figured they’re not going to play the second half the way they did the first,” Bone said. “They’re going to come out after half and bring a lot of effort, and I thought our guys came out and brought some effort but not the same level as Arizona State.”
But with the Cougars still leading 43-31, Patrick Simon made a 3-pointer from the corner, then WSU broke ASU’s press on consecutive possessions that led to two D.J. Shelton dunks to put the Cougars back ahead by 19.
The margin never dipped below 15 after that.
The way the Cougars have performed in recent close losses – and especially what they did Saturday – makes it hard to fathom that this same team lost to ASU earlier this season, 71-67 in Tempe.
Bone called the game another sign of progress.
“It’s important, because we’ve not had a lot of wins here the last four or five games,” Bone said. “It was extremely important that we came out and played well enough to feel good about how we played.”
Especially with first-place Washington (19-8, 12-3) coming to town next weekend.
“They don’t want to go back to Seattle losing,” Capers said. “We don’t want to show our faces after another loss in our own house. I feel like it’s going to be a pretty good one.”