LAS VEGAS – In what was widely presumed to be Ken Bone’s last game as the Washington State men’s basketball coach, the Cougars nearly inverted the narrative.
Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins is under a mandate to make the NCAA tournament, and a loss to WSU, No. 203 in the RPI, would likely have ended the Cardinal’s tournament hopes and Dawkins’ tenure as coach.
But Stanford prevailed 74-63, bringing a close to WSU’s disappointing season and possibly Bone’s time at WSU.
When asked if he would return next year as coach, Bone said, “I sure hope so, I have two years left on my contract. That’s what I would hope to be but I don’t make that call, there’s actually someone higher up than I am at the university.”
Bone added that he has not yet scheduled a postseason meeting with athletic director Bill Moos, and when pressed said, “I have not been told a thing about my future at Washington State.”
Senior DaVonte Lacy led the team with 25 points and said that while the speculation surrounding Bone’s future at WSU has not been a distraction to the team, they are certainly aware of the criticism.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinions in this day and age with all this social media, so everyone feels their opinion needs to be heard,” Lacy said. “Of course we see it but there’s nothing I can do about it. I just go do my job every day and so does he.”
Despite their mid-conference finish, Stanford (20-11, 10-8 Pac-12) boasts a talented roster. Chasson Randle, who led the Cardinal with 22 points, was named first-team all-Pac-12, as was forward Dwight Powell.
Anthony Brown was named the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player and Josh Huestis made the all-defensive team.
Only Lacy received any all-conference honors for WSU, and only honorable mention.
“I think we’ve played better, but we didn’t play a bad game,” Bone said. “Stanford deserves a lot of credit, a number of those kids played well. They hit big shots down the stretch, Powell hit some big 3s and then they did a great job at the free-throw line.”
The importance of the game to both sides was evident in their use of personnel. Despite the winner facing another game today, both No. 11 seed WSU and No. 6 seed Stanford relied heavily on their starters.
Each team’s bench contributed just two points.
Randle ended the half with a 3-pointer to put Stanford up 35-28, but WSU came out of the locker room ready to chip at the Cardinal’s lead. Lacy cut the deficit with a pair of acrobatic layups, and D.J. Shelton’s work on the offensive boards paid dividends.
Jump shooters all season long, WSU was content to attack the paint. Shelton’s putback tied the game at 47, and Woolridge completed a three-point play to give WSU a 50-47 lead following a shot-clock violation by Stanford.
But Stanford’s superior talent and depth proved more effective than the spirit and want of the Cougars. The Cardinal followed Woolridge’s play with a 10-0 run. Dwight Powell hit two 3-pointers and every time the Cougs appeared to close the gap Stanford had an answer.