PULLMAN – It’s finals week at Washington State, and for the longest time Thursday evening, the Cougars appeared to be in danger of flunking one of the easiest tests offered in college basketball.
Winless Jackson State, one of the worst teams in NCAA Division I by various standards, led WSU 34-32 midway through the second half before a 14-0 run lifted the Cougars to an uninspiring 52-41 triumph at Beasley Coliseum.
A crowd of 2,686 sat in silence most of the game as the uncommonly ugly contest unfolded before them. Washington State improved to 7-4 despite shooting 40.8 percent from the field, making 19 turnovers and missing 16-of-19 3-pointers that the Cougars insisted on shooting against an undersized team that often played four guards.
WSU coach Ken Bone, citing the weariness of players during finals week, blamed himself for the dismal performance.
“I think it was inevitable ... it’s still no excuse,” WSU star Brock Motum said.
Bone said he scheduled the contest to avoid an extended period between games.
“I’m really not that disappointed,” Bone insisted. “I liked our defense.
“Our ballhandling was really, really bad, and our shooting was bad.”
Motum led the Cougars yet again with 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting. The senior forward has scored 23 or more points in five straight games.
“He’s really, really good,” longtime Tigers coach Tevester Anderson said. “He hit us inside, outside, the whole deal.
“He knows how to post up. He’s got good hands. (Motum will) play on weekends and Sundays (in the NBA) sometime soon.”
Former Curtis High School star DaVonté Lacy (11 points) was the only other Cougar with more than five points. Lacy sank WSU’s only three made 3-pointers, but Bone said the Cougars were “wide open” on most of their 3-point misses.
The Tigers, who lost 120-67 Tuesday at Saint Mary’s (Calif.)., fell to 0-7 after shooting a frosty 22.8 percent (13 for 57) from the field. Jackson State came into the game with one of the worst field-goal shooting percentages (35.6) in the country and an average margin of defeat of 21.4 points.
Jackson State’s field-goal shooting percentage was a season low for a Cougars opponent. The Tigers scored 21 points off turnovers, but they were outrebounded 44-29.
The Tigers , who play their first 11 games on the road, visit Washington on Saturday (4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Cougars, 5-1 on the homestand, don’t return to Pullman until playing Washington in a Pac-12 Conference opener Jan. 5. WSU’s 10th annual Seattle “home” game is next Friday against Buffalo (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).