PULLMAN – There was a frustrating first half, then a flurry of offense and a brief lead, then an ultimate collapse leading to another loss.
This is how it’s gone for Washington State this season. And that was how it went in WSU’s 58-49 loss to Colorado on Saturday at Beasley Coliseum: another winnable game turned into a frustrating loss, the Buffaloes scoring 29 points in the game’s final 12:43 to pull away from a tired-looking Cougars team that couldn’t get a stop when they had to.
Their record falls to 1-4 in Pac-12 men’s basketball play, 10-8 overall, with an always-difficult trip to Oregon and Oregon State upcoming.
Colorado (12-6, 2-4) outscored the Cougars 21-12 over the final 9:11 after tying the score at 37-37.
Prior to that, WSU overcame a 29.6 percent shooting performance in the first half to take a second-half lead. Royce Woolridge sparked that surge with a 3-pointer, a driving score and foul and an open-court layup following a pretty spin move to put WSU ahead 31-27 with 15:17 to go.
But the Cougars wound up shooting just 34.5 percent from the field, and made only five of their 24 attempts from 3-point range just three days after shooting 11 for 20 in a win over Utah.
“We didn’t help the situation at all,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “We didn’t execute very well, especially that last two minutes. I know we were frustrated with the fact that we were not scoring very well.”
Those last two minutes were spent chasing the Buffaloes around and hoping they’d miss their free throws, which they did. Colorado missed the front end of a pair of one-and-one trips, leading by seven, inside the final 1:32.
But the Cougars squandered each gift. Woolridge had the ball stripped from him as he drove to the hoop. After Xavier Johnson missed a free throw, Mike Ladd drove wildly to the hoop before tossing up a forced jumper that had little chance.
Maybe if the Cougars had been able to score in the four minutes prior, those empty trips wouldn’t have buried them. Will DiIorio’s basket with 5:40 remanining got the crowd back into the game and pulled WSU within three points at 47-44.
Then Spencer Dinwiddie made two free throws (he scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half), and Johnson and Josh Scott scored in the paint on back-to-back trips to extend Colorado’s lead to 51-44 and put the pressure back on the Cougars.
They caved. And on a night when Colorado didn’t shoot all that well, either, making 43.2 percent of its field goals and only one 3-pointer.
“I feel like we just gave poor effort at the end down the stretch,” said Ladd, one of two WSU players in double-figures with 13 points. “We need to be more aggressive and we should have defended pretty well. But we didn’t.”
They also couldn’t get the ball to Brock Motum with much success, either. He scored 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting, seven of those attempts coming from 3-point range.
The Buffaloes were more aggressive, and that showed in the stats: they shot 24 free throws to WSU’s nine, making 19.
“I’m not sure what the case was,” Bone said. “It is disappointing they shoot 24 free throws to our nine. Maybe it’s just that – they’re more aggressive and they do a great job of not fouling and we’re not aggressive and we do foul.”
Offensively, Motum said, “I’d say we have a lot of room for improvement. We rep it all the time in practice. Defenses throw us different things, so we need to adjust better, but I think there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. Not in the big scheme of things, but just minute details. Once we get that figured out, the rest will sort of flow.”