BOULDER, Colo. – Just as Washington State began to show the mark of a team ready to move forward into a new tier of competitiveness within the Pac-12 conference, the Cougars suffered an enormous setback on Sunday.
WSU was pulverized 81-49 by Colorado, a team it had beaten earlier in the year and with whom it was tied in the conference standings.
The Cougars (11-14, 4-9 Pac-12) turned the ball over 24 times, five more than they had in any other game this season, which led to 34 additional points for the Buffaloes.
Because of all the turnovers, CU (15-11, 5-8) attempted 18 more shots than WSU. Add in the Buffaloes’ hot shooting at home – the team made 51.6 percent of its shots and 38.1 percent of its 3-pointers – and a sizable victory was a certainty.
The Cougars beat the Buffaloes in overtime during the teams’ previous meeting in Pullman. WSU had not had a truly bad outing since that performance, winning only one of five games but playing competitively against some of the country’s best teams.
But on Sunday they were manhandled.
“I just felt like they completely knocked us on our heels,” coach Ernie Kent told Matt Chazanow on the IMG postgame radio show. “Once we started to turn it over we never regained our composure because they were the more aggressive, more physical team.”
“We could not even run offense because we couldn’t back cut,” he added. “We couldn’t pass, we couldn’t do anything offensively and to their credit, they took advantage and took us out of our game.”
The Buffaloes have emerged as one of the conference’s hottest teams. When the teams first matched up, CU was one of two Pac-12 teams without a conference victory. Now the Buffaloes have won five of their last six games and have risen to No. 7 in the conference standings.
The Buffaloes took control of what had been a slow game with a 17-4 run late in the first half. They led 37-24 at halftime and never looked back.
CU was led by guard Derrick White on Sunday, who as the game’s leading scorer with 23 points. White made 9-of-11 of his field goal attempts, and made 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc.
Bryce Peters, George King and Tory Miller also each scored in double figures for the Buffaloes, and each player shot better than 50 percent from the field.
CU also benefited from the return of rugged senior starters Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson, who were suspended for two games for violating team rules.
Freshman forward Jeff Pollard made his first start for WSU, but played just 12 minutes. The only Cougar to score in double digits was backup forward Robert Franks, who scored 10 points thanks to a pair of 3-pointers.
Pollard was also the only starter to have less than three turnovers.
With the loss, the Cougars fall into a tie with Stanford for ninth-place in the Pac-12. They will have a chance to leapfrog Arizona State next Saturday when they host the Sun Devils in Pullman. ASU is one game ahead of WSU in the conference standings, but the Cougars hold a tie-breaker having already beaten the Sun Devils in Tempe earlier this year.
First the Cougars will have to taken on No. 9 Arizona, a team they played competitively but ultimately lost to last month in Tucson.