CORVALLIS, Ore. – Washington State’s frustrating, maddeningly inconsistent men’s basketball season is on the brink of something improbable: a happy ending.
Playing without its leading scorer and rebounder for all but 2 minutes, the Cougars put together their best performance of the season in rolling Oregon State 72-55 Wednesday night in a College Basketball Invitational semifinal game at Gill Coliseum.
Brock Motum sprained his right ankle less than 2 minutes into the game, and the loss of WSU’s leader had a big impact on the team. This time, it was in a positive manner, as the resourceful Cougars received a career performance from senior Abe Lodwick, a season-high 22 points from Reggie Moore and scrappy play from throughout the roster.
Lodwick scored the first double-double of his career with 23 points and 12 rebounds in leading Washington State to the CBI finals. The Cougars (18-16) play Pittsburgh (20-16) in a best-of-3 series beginning Monday in Pullman.
“I know people don’t look at the CBI as being very prestigious, but the opportunity to keep playing, it’s cool,” Lodwick said. “I told the guys, if we weren’t playing, we’d be going through individual workouts right now. This is a lot more fun than that.”
Even with Motum, Wednesday’s game figured to be an uphill battle for Washington State. The Beavers (21-15) were hot, having won six of their past seven games, including a 69-64 victory over the Cougars in the Pacific-12 Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Motum scored WSU’s first four points, then crumbled to the floor at the Cougars’ defensive end at the 18:10 mark of the first half. But Washington State never blinked, as the Cougars never allowed Oregon State to get closer than four points during the first half, and nine points after halftime.
Motum was taken to a Corvallis hospital at halftime for X-rays. WSU coach Ken Bone did not know the results following the game.
After Motum left, several Cougars said they didn’t think about needing to dig down deep to find something extra.
“It’s not a one-man show. We have 14 guys on the team,” Moore said.
Lodwick said he wasn’t thinking he had to replace Motum’s scoring.
“I just thought we all had to step it up defensively,” Lodwick said.
To that end, Washington State was superb. The Cougars held an Oregon State team coming off a 101-point performance against Texas Christian to a season low in points by holding the Beavers to 38 percent shooting (19 of 50). WSU outrebounded the Beavers 41-34.
Bone said he wanted to get the ball in Moore’s hands and let the junior guard make good decisions. It rarely hurt when Moore got the ball to Lodwick, who made 8 of 12 shots, and was 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
Lodwick had 16 points against Wyoming in the CBI quarterfinals, which was his career high.
“I’ve been feeling confident after the last game. It was good to have some shots go in,” said Lodwick, who grew up in central Oregon.
Lodwick scored 16 of Washington State’s final 20 points of the first half to give the Cougars a 39-29 halftime lead. There were few anxious moments after halftime, after a 9-0 run midway through the second half gave WSU a 60-42 lead.
Eric Moreland led Oregon State with 14 points.
This is Washington State’s first trip to the CBI finals. Oregon State (2009) and Oregon (2011) are previous CBI champions.