TEMPE, Ariz. – Though the offense thawed somewhat, the Washington State shooters were still mostly cold in the desert heat as the Cougars fell to Arizona State 66-47 in front of 5,072 fans on Sunday.
The team struggled to score all weekend, putting up just 72 points in two games.
Leading scorer DaVonte Lacy returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games while recovering from an appendectomy. Without the junior guard, who averages 18.9 points per game, the Cougars scored just 25 points in Thursday’s loss to No. 1 Arizona, the lowest total by a Pac-12 team in 15 years.
But Lacy’s return was short-lived. He scored four points and pulled down four rebounds in 11 minutes, but rushed to the locker room while clutching his side in the middle of the first half. Lacy did not return, and was sent to the hospital.
“It definitely jerked us around a little bit,” said Junior Longrus, who led the team with seven rebounds. “We were happy to have him back and to have him leave threw a wrench in a couple things that we planned on doing. We can’t run DaVonte all the time but it’s definitely a little different not having him on the court.”
Coach Ken Bone said that it is possible that the medical issue was unrelated to Lacy’s previous injury. Bone said Lacy told him that the pain was in the area of his ribs.
WSU’s defense played well enough to keep the Cougars close. Spurred by eight first-half steals, the team went on a 9-2 run to end the first half and was down just 27-23 at the break. Dexter Kernich-Drew, also playing his first game after returning from a concussion-induced absence, led the way with five points.
But the Cougars couldn’t find enough replacement scorers in the second half, and Arizona State got hot from the outside, finishing the game having made 9 of 20 3-point attempts.
“I thought our defense was doing a good job, really good job. We’ve got to get better offensively,” Bone said. “It’s hard when arguably your best player, definitely your best scorer, isn’t out there. So to try and manufacture points in creative ways, it makes it a little difficult to say the least.”
Que Johnson tried to assume the role for the Cougars, and scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half. The freshman is an efficient scorer, and shot 70 percent from the field while hitting half of his 3-point attempts.
“Especially with DaVonte being gone, I felt the scoring load on my hands,” Johnson said. “I basically put that on me.”
Johnson’s performance was the difference between Sunday’s performance – when the Cougars were occasionally able to score in the halfcourt – and Thursday’s, in which WSU had just 14 points with 6 minutes to go before scoring nine against the Wildcats subs. In that game, Johnson scored just three points in 23 minutes and turned the ball over four times.
“He was a bit nervous the other night at Arizona. Stepping into that arena, I don’t think he’d ever played in front of more than 6,000 people, which was at Gonzaga a month, month-and-a-half ago,” Bone said. “So to step into the McKale Center, 14,000 and play against the No. 1 team in the nation, he admitted that he wasn’t ready for that.”
But Johnson’s single-handed offense wasn’t enough, as he was outdone by ASU’s Jermaine Marshall. The senior, who is a graduate transfer from Penn State, finished with 26 points, including 16 during ASU’s backbreaking 18-2 run that stretched the Sun Devils’ lead from 33-31 to 51-33.
A jumper by D.J. Shelton accounted for WSU’s only points during that run, which took 6:14 off the clock. The Cougars took only nine shots in that span, and made no trips to the free-throw line. WSU made just 5 of 13 free throws in the game, while the Sun Devils hit 16 of 24.
Without Lacy WSU appeared lost at times offensively, which led to a 19-7 advantage for the Sun Devils in points off turnovers.