BOULDER, Colo. – The setup for the opening minutes of Saturday’s game against Colorado could hardly have been better for Washington State.
The reality could hardly have been worse.
With their top three scorers watching from the bench, the Buffaloes immediately took control and never relinquished it in a 90-58 dismantling of WSU.
The game seemed nearly over after just five minutes. It took that long for the Buffaloes to miss a shot when Gordon Wesley’s 3-pointer rimmed out 4:56 into the game. By that point the Buffaloes were already up 10.
“They got into a rhythm that we couldn’t get them out of, where everybody started to score,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said. “And when you shoot the ball at that high a percentage, when you’ve got that many assists, there’s nothing we could do in the game to combat what they were doing because they were in such a great rhythm.”
CU’s Xavier Johnson was out with an ankle injury while Josh Scott has missed six games because of back spasms. Leading scorer Askia Booker was taken out of the starting lineup for showing up late to a team function but played a team-leading 30 minutes and led all scorers with 21 points.
By the time Booker first checked into the game his team was already leading 17-5. By halftime CU led 47-31 and the game had ceased to be competitive. The victory in front of 9,571 fans ended a four-game losing streak for CU (10-9, 3-4 Pac-12). Despite missing two of their primary scorers the Buffaloes shot 54.8 percent from the field and connected on 11 of 22 3-point attempts. Hot-shooting opponents have been a discouraging trend for the Cougars, whose adversaries have shot at least 48 percent in each of their last five games.
“We are what we are. There are not a lot of ways to hide it and I would hope that we would play a little bit tougher and just a little bit grittier,” Kent said. “We know our deficiencies there, just like we know our deficiencies offensively so we’ve been trying to get a little bit gimmicky and that doesn’t work. We’ve just got to get a little bit tougher on a possession-by-possession basis.”
Hustle plays may not have made up the entirety of the gulf between the teams, but that metric certainly went to the home team.
“Play with more energy, I think we need to do a better job of that,” Ike Iroegbu said. “We play with a lot of energy in practice, we need to bring that over to the games.”
Kent said that the Cougars’ inability to keep up with CU was not due to a lack of effort.
“We just wore down in both games playing against bigger-bodied athletes,” Kent said. “That’s a really athletic basketball team there. You just look at their bodies and you start banging on them, you run out of energy real quick.”
The Cougars were able to force the Buffaloes to play at their preferred pace but were outscored 19-14 in fast break points, because the Cougars struggled to get back defensively following missed baskets.
CU outscored the Cougars 15-4 in second-chance points thanks to an overpowering 44-28 rebounding advantage.
WSU (9-10, 3-4) took a step back in other respects. After entering the week as one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the Pac-12 the Cougars converted just 5 of 11 trips to the line against CU, after making just 14 of 27 in Wednesday’s loss at Utah.
The Cougars will try to get back on track next week at home against California and Stanford.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.