Motum’s game benefits from more opportunities
PULLMAN – Washington State basketball players Abe Lodwick and Brock Motum are good friends, and Lodwick has nothing but praise for Motum’s stellar play this season.
Lodwick balks, however, when people suggest that Motum is the most improved player in the Pacific-12 Conference.
“It’s not like he’s gotten tons better,” Lodwick insists. “He’s just getting a lot of opportunities, and he’s making the most of them.”
Motum, a 6-foot-10 junior from Brisbane, Australia, has seen his scoring average climb from 2.9 points per game as a freshman to 7.6 as a sophomore to 17.8 this season. Motum’s playing time and shot totals also have increased significantly each year.
“I’ll put him up against any forward in the country,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said after Motum scored 28 points against the Wildcats last week.
Motum ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring, fourth in field-goal shooting percentage (56.7) and sixth in rebounding (6.5).
“There’s very few teams that are going to have an answer for how good an offensive player he’s become,” Miller said.
Miller praised WSU coaches (“They’ve done an incredible job of developing him”) and players for the way they utilize Motum on offense. His jumper is deadly from a variety of spots; he drives to the basket well; his inside moves are effective; and he draws plenty of fouls.
“As the year has gone on, I think Brock has become more and more competitive on the floor,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “He’s a great kid, and we’ve asked him to flip the switch and become a little nastier.”
The Pac-12 co-leaders from Washington (19-8 overall, 12-3 Pac-12) are fighting for the regular-season championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament as they prepare for Saturday’s game at Washington State (5 p.m., Rooot Sports).
Washington State (14-13, 6-9) is mired in eighth place, but the game also carries considerable importance for the Cougars. Seeding for the Pac-12 tournament is up in the air, and the Cougars hope to advance to a postseason tournament for a school-record fifth time in six years.
WSU would be chasing a sixth straight postseason berth, but Bone said the 2009-10 Cougars were playing so poorly at the end of their 16-15 season that they turned down the College Basketball Invitational.
WSU students are invited to camp overnight in tents outside Beasley Coliseum, starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
The Cougars hope the combination of the Huskies, Senior Night and the final home game of the season will produce a large crowd. WSU drew its largest Beasley crowd of the season (5,218) last Saturday against Arizona State. The Huskies haven’t had a home crowd that small since 3,975 watched Air Force on Nov. 15, 2005.
The Cougars are bidding for a sixth consecutive winning season. That’s happened just three times in 113 years of WSU basketball. Eight-year winning strings ended in 1943 and 1952, and a six-year streak came to a halt in 1996.
If the Cougars close the league season with wins over Washington and next week at UCLA and USC, they’ll match last year’s 9-9 conference record. WSU has posted winning conference records only twice (2006-07 and 2007-08) since going 10-8 in 1994-95 (and 9-9 in 1995-96).
WSU would have to win a record four games in four days to win the Pac-12 tournament and earn the league’s automatic bid in the NCAA tournament. The top four teams in the Pac-12 standings receive first-day byes at the conference tournament March 7-10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“If we go into the tournament with a chip on our shoulder, I feel like the tournament could be ours,” WSU senior guard Marcus Capers said.
The Cougars have not won a conference championship since 1940-41.
WSU junior point guard Reggie Moore, who was recruited by Washington after starring at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, leads the Pac-12 with 5.6 assists per game.
No Cougars player has finished first in assists since the conference began recognizing assists champions in 1974-75.