SPOKANE – The Washington State Cougars, who put together a six-game winning streak after their first embarrassing loss, get a shot at redemption when they take on Oregon State today at Spokane Arena.
The Beavers lead the Pacific-12 Conference in scoring, but the Cougars would be hard-pressed to give up more points than in their Pac-12 debut.
The Cougars, who were leading the conference in field-goal shooting percentage defense at 38.2, contested precious few shots inside or outside as Oregon shot 69 percent in a 92-75 romp Thursday night.
“We’re better than that,” WSU coach Ken Bone promised. “I know it. Our guys know it.
“We’ll come back Saturday and have a better game.”
The Cougars had won six in a row since blowing a late, 14-point lead in a 64-63 loss to underwhelming UC Riverside on Nov. 27.
LACY LIGHTS IT UP
Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy had season bests of 19 points and five 3-pointers to lead the Cougars against Oregon, but the former Curtis High School standout was hardly in a celebratory mood afterward.
“Like coach said in the locker room, it was like a fight, and they punched first, second, third, fifth,” Lacy said. “We just seemed to never fight back. I don’t think that’s the team we are, and it’s not the team we want to be known as.”
Senior team captains Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers assured Lacy and WSU fans that things will improve this afternoon.
“Go out there and fight, fight, fight,” Capers said. “Just play tough, man. You know what I’m saying?
“It’s a pride thing. You’ve got to play with passion.”
“Oregon State, they’re not going to feel sorry for us,” Lodwick said. “The least we can do is pull our chins up and go out there and show what we’re really about.
“I know we’re a tough team. We didn’t show it (Thursday), but we will on Saturday.”
CROWDS PICK UP
Bone joked earlier in the season that his players might prefer playing in front of small crowds. After all, the Cougars are 5-0 in Pullman, where they average barely 3,200 fans.
The Cougars have drawn nearly 10,000 to each of their past two games, home-away-from-home contests with Pepperdine in Seattle and Oregon in Spokane. Both nights, fans often sat on their hands due to the Cougars’ inconsistent intensity and efficiency.
The Cougars value the Spokane market and chose to open conference play in Spokane Arena with Pullman largely deserted due to the holiday break from classes.
“If we’d played in Pullman (on Thursday), there probably would have been 12, 20 people in the crowd,” Capers said.
LUCK OF THE DRAW
After Thursday’s game, Bone probably empathizes with the college coach who once described his job as “watching a bunch of teenagers run around with my paycheck in their mouth.”
Oregon’s two best players were senior transfers Oly Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech) and Joseph Devoe (Minnesota). The Cougars’ two best players this year figured to be Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, but they passed up their senior seasons to turn pro.
Starting senior post Charlie Enquist, who had been shooting the ball superbly, took no shots Thursday and played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble and defense issues. … Players visited a local children’s hospital on Wednesday. … Former WSU point guard Taylor Rochestie is Player of the Week in France’s top pro league. Rochestie, playing for Le Mans, is third in the league in scoring (20.5) and second in assists (6.8).
OREGON STATE (10-3, 0-1 PAC-12) VS. WASHINGTON STATE (8-5, 0-1)
When: 3 p.m. today, Spokane Arena.
TV: Root Sports. Radio: KTTH 770 AM.
Series: OSU leads, 162-120. The Cougars swept Oregon State last year, including a 61-55 victory in Corvallis in which WSU’s Klay Thompson (now playing in the NBA) scored just six points. The Beavers shared in Thompson’s pain: They sank only 2 of 17 shots from 3-point range.
Jared Cunningham G18.104.22.1686.475.5
Scouting report: The Cougars, who played atrocious defense in their Pac-12 opener Thursday against Oregon, now face the Pac-12’s top scoring team. The Beavers lead the conference and were ranked in the top 12 nationally through Thursday in scoring (83.2 ppg), field-goal shooting percentage (49.7) and assists (17.9). The Beavers also lead the Pac-12 in steals (10.1, tied for fourth nationally). Cunningham, a 6-foot-4 guard with impressive quickness, is second in the league in scoring and first in steals (2.9). The Cougars gave up plenty of dunks and easy baskets down low Thursday. That’s where Brandt and Collier operate, and they’re 1-2 in the Pac-12 in field-goal shooting percentage. Aden, coming off a four-point effort against Oregon, has shot 33 percent (11 for 33) and averaged 9.3 points in three games since recovering from a concussion.
Next: 6 p.m. Thursday, Utah, Salt Lake City (no TV).
Howie Stalwick, contributing writer