PULLMAN – The suit emphasized the difficulty of this task.
Brock Motum looked sharp on Monday night. But it was because he was dressed in a jacket, slacks and dress shoes, limping around on the sidelines on a sprained right ankle that prevented Washington State’s leading scorer from playing against Pittsburgh in the opening game of the College Basketball Invitational’s best-of-3 championship series.
“We knew going in that guys were going to have to be aggressive and step up in scoring,” said senior forward Abe Lodwick. “And I think to a man, we did that.”
They did. They really did. And so WSU will be the happier team when it shares a charter flight out of Lewiston with Pitt this morning, the teams headed back east for the series’ second game after the Cougars took an improbable 67-66 win at Beasley Coliseum Monday night before 4,226 rowdy spectators.
Washington State’s win was in doubt until D.J. Shelton blocked a last-second shot by Tray Woodall and Pittsburgh followed with a missed desparation shot at the buzzer.
WSU (19-16) can clinch the CBI championship by winning one more game Wednesday in Pittsburgh. A third game would be played Friday if necessary.
“I sound like a broken record,” coach Ken Bone said. “But I’m really proud of our guys that we are able to figure out ways to win recently.”
Motum sprained his ankle early in WSU’s semifinal win over Oregon State. He arrived at Monday’s game on crutches, and it’s not likely he’ll play Wednesday, either.
With Motum watching from the sidelines, Lodwick scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first half, as did Reggie Moore, part of WSU’s 63.2-percent shooting effort from the field.
Yet the Cougars, who allowed Pitt to make 7 of 13 from 3-point range in that span, still trailed 38-35 at halftime. But their lax defense was about to change.
“I feel like we shifted a whole lot better than we did in the first half (after halftime),” guard Marcus Capers said.
They did. WSU built a 60-48 lead thanks to an 11-1 run midway through the second half, holding the Panthers without a field goal for nearly eight minutes, getting contributions from multiple players.
This was how they had to win without Motum.
“It was try to milk the clock, move the ball and take some time off, as long as it’s our lead,” Bone said. “… Let’s see if we can get a good shot as the shot clock’s going down.”
But Pitt (20-17) wasn’t done. The Panthers pulled within 62-59 after a Lamar Patterson dunk with 2:53 to play.
Moore knocked down a jumper to give WSU a 67-62 lead with 1:11 to play. Patterson answered with a bucket, a foul and a free throw to bring Pitt within two with 1:01 remaining.
On the other end, Lodwick was forced into a wild shot toward the end of the shot clock.
Pitt rebounded with 25 seconds left and chose not to call a timeout. Instead, Patterson tried to shoot over Charlie Enquist, who blocked his shot. But Patterson snatched the board and went back up, this time drawing a foul from Enquist with 4.8 seconds left.
Patterson made the first. He missed the second. Lodwick rebounded, was fouled, and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Pitt rebounded and called timeout.
The inbounds pass was caught by Woodall, who drove to the rim and was rejected by Shelton. The crowd roared, but 0.8 seconds still remained, giving Pitt enough time to catch and shoot.
That’s what Patterson did, launching a long jumper from the corner that caught iron at the buzzer. He’ll get a chance to relive that moment this morning, when the teams fly together back to Pittsburgh.
Said Bone: “We’ll get to know each other really well.”
Though the Cougars have already proven to be full of surprises.
Percentages: FG .444, FT .533. 3-Point Goals: 10-20, .500 (Woodall 4-6, Gibbs 2-4, Moore 2-6, Robinson 1-1, Patterson 1-1, Johnson 0-1, Wright 0-1). Blocked Shots: 2 (Wright, Zanna). Turnovers: 7 (Robinson 2, Taylor, Woodall, Patterson, Zanna, Moore). Steals: 4 (Robinson, Taylor, Woodall, Patterson). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .512, FT .737. 3-Point Goals: 9-15, .600 (Lodwick 4-5, Ladd 2-2, Simon 2-3, Lacy 1-5). Blocked shots: 4 (Capers 2, Enquist, Shelton). Turnovers: 8 (Moore 5, Capers 2, Enquist). Steals: 3 (Enquist, Ladd, Shelton). Technical fouls: None.
Halftime: Pittsburgh 38, Washington State 35.