PULLMAN – During the National Anthem prior to Washington State’s game against Stanford, WSU assistant coach Rod Jensen looked over at the Cougars opponent, turned to coach Ken Bone and observed, “Man, they are tall.”
“Not only tall, look at their arms,” Bone replied.
It was a prescient exchange as the Cardinal would use their superior height and length to stifle WSU’s offense on the way to a 69-56 victory in front of 3,054 fans on Saturday evening. The Cougars shot just 31.4 percent in the game.
It was the Anthony Brown Show in the first half. The Stanford junior scored 11 of the game’s first 17 points on his way to 20 in the first half, which Stanford led, 39-24. Brown had a remarkably efficient game with 30 points on just 10 shots.
“Great game, boy he lit us up,” Bone said. “Good from all areas. He was good from every area of the floor … 3-point line, free-throw line, getting to the rim; he put on a show, he was great.”
Que Johnson’s 14 points and eight rebounds led the Cougars (9-16, 2-11 Pac-12) in both categories.
DaVonte Lacy entered the game averaging 26.3 points in the four games he’s played since returning from a rib injury. He scored just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting against the Cardinal (16-8, 7-5).
“I’ve never been one to demand the ball or anything, I just let the game come to me,” Lacy said. “And tonight it just didn’t come to me as much as it has since I’ve been back. I’m not one to say I need the ball more or anything.”
D.J. Shelton has been a revelation of late, putting up a double-double in five of his last eight games and averaging 15.6 points and 11.9 rebounds over the team’s last seven games. But Stanford held him to just 11 points on 14 shots and a scant four rebounds.
Both players earn their scholarships facing the basket on offense, and Stanford’s size proved to be the perfect foil to WSU’s most dangerous scorers.
“What bothers us more than anything (are) teams with quickness and length, because we need to be able to shoot shots,” Bone said. “We don’t have a lot of post presence down there where we dump it down and score right near the hoop.”
A positive for the Cougars was that the team only turned the ball over nine times. But those nine were still especially costly as Stanford was able to turn the ensuing fast breaks into 17 points.
“We’ve done a pretty good job in that area but when we do turn it over it seems like teams score at a high rate in transition against us and that’s where it has hurt us,” Bone said.
Brown made his first six shots, including a corner 3-pointer that skipped off the backboard and through the net. In the second half he cooled off just enough for the WSU defense to make it a game again.
Stanford didn’t make its second field goal until 9:29 left in the second half. By then the Cougars had cut the deficit to just five points. After shooting 63.2 percent in the first half, Stanford made just 6 of 22 shots after returning from the locker room.
“I thought we came out and played with a lot of energy,” Shelton said. “Our second half was better than our first half defensively so we kind of focused in and tried to take away some things we saw they were trying to do.”
Shelton nearly cut Stanford’s lead to two points with 8:40 left in the game. But his 3-pointer rattled out of the basket and the Cardinal quickly scored on the other end of the floor and the Cougars never got back within eight points.
“I thought that was a pivotal play during the game,” Bone said. “But our guys didn’t give up. They kept battling, they worked hard and I thought that’s what got us back in the game.”