PULLMAN – Sometimes basketball is a simple game.
At least it was Saturday evening at Beasley Coliseum.
Washington State shot nearly 55 percent from the floor, Eastern Washington less than 35. That simple statistic was at the nub of the Cougars’ 88-69 season-opening nonconference victory over the visitors from Cheney before 6,705.
“We’ve laid two eggs here, but you have to give that credit to Washington State,” said Eastern coach Jim Hayford, who suffered through a similar loss here last year in his first season at EWU.
“We missed shots in the first half because they were contested, then settled for little deeper ones and kind of dug ourselves a hole.”
But for every floor – and Eastern’s 3-of-19 3-point shooting in the first 20 minutes qualifies as rock-bottom – there is a ceiling. In this case, Washington State’s perimeter defense.
“In the first half we executed real well on defense,” understated Brock Motum, who began this season as he finished the last, as WSU’s leading scorer, this time with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
“It was the key to our defensive game plan to contest their 3s,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “Like Mike (Ladd) and Brock said, our guys deserve a lot of credit for the job they did the first 28, 30 minutes of the game defending the 3-point line.”
The Cougars’ defense, which held Eastern to 21.6 percent shooting in the first half (15.8 from beyond the arc), also triggered the offense, especially early in the second half. WSU, which led 7-0 before Justin Crosgile finally converted Eastern’s eighth shot attempt, built the lead methodically throughout the first 20 minutes, taking a 39-20 edge into halftime.
But the first 6 minutes of the second half were even better, punctuated by D.J. Shelton’s tomahawk dunk over Venky Jois with 18:14, part of a 15-6 run.
Shelton, a 6-foot-9 post, finished with a game-high 12 boards.
“It was a 10,” described Ladd, who split 30 points with his running mate at guard, DaVonte Lacy.
Ladd also could have been describing Motum’s performance.
The 6-10 senior was efficient, ranging from dunks (one of which earned him a technical for hanging on the rim) to 20-footers.
About Motum’s only failing was an inability to hit a 3 – he missed his two tries.
“He’s become pretty patient, lets the game come to him,” Bone said. “He understands we are going to continue to try to get the ball to him.”
Crosgile, a 5-11 junior transfer from St. Joseph, paced Eastern with a game-high 28 points and five assists.