WSU men’s basketball fall short to Trojans

Adam Loewy | Evergreen reporter

The Washington State men’s basketball team came into the game trying to win its final two home games against USC and UCLA and avoid a last-place standing in the Pac-12 conference. 

However, it was the same song and dance for Washington State as the Cougars dropped their eighth-straight game in the conference play.  Washington State (9-20, 2-15) was simply outmatched by USC’s junior guard (10-19, 2-15) Bryon Wesley, who scored 20 of his points in the second half on his way to tying his career-high 31 points, while adding 10 rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Wesley seemed liked he couldn’t miss in the second half for the Trojans. 

Wesley’s career-high night seemed to out-shine two of the Cougars’ best weapons on offense, redshirt senior forward D.J. Shelton and junior guard DaVonte Lacy who both scored in double figures.  Lacy got off to a slow start in the first half, but scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half along with 10 rebounds and three assists.  Shelton, who had a significant impact in the second half of the season on offense, finished the game with 11 points and 11 rebounds but is 0-14 from behind the arc during the last two games. 

With Shelton’s struggles from beyond the arc, Head Coach Ken Bone said he needs Shelton to start making some easy inside baskets before he starts shooting 3-pointers again. 

“This was a huge opportunity for us.  We were really looking forward to going in here and playing hard and getting this win,” redshirt junior guard Royce Woolridge said.  “Unfortunately, we didn’t so that hurts.”

The Cougars entered the second half with a narrow lead against the Trojans and started in 8-0 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by redshirt junior guard Dexter Kernich-Drew and Lacy, but it was USC’s full-court pressure in the second half that shifted the momentum. 

“(USC) was a lot more aggressive (in the second half), and they really pushed it in transition, which led to most of their buckets,” Woolridge said.

Kernich-Drew said the press didn’t take the team out of the game, but it definitely got USC going offensively and it gave them energy defensively. 

The Cougars went cold from the field late in the second half, and the Trojans’ defense led by center senior center Omar Oraby and senior center D.J. Haley created turnovers, which allowed USC to extend their lead on a 21-6 run. 

Bone said USC picked up momentum in the second half and played with a stronger tempo, creating more shots.  

“I thought a couple of our guys played very fatigued, and I’m surprised,” Bone said. “We took Saturday and Sunday off, practiced Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but didn’t go super hard.” 

Bone said the losing streak doesn’t get any easier as the losses pile up, but he expects the team to come back every day and work hard. He said it’s not just the 79 points that USC scored, but also the number of rebounds and points in the paint the Cougars gave up. 

“I want these guys to end their season on as high as note as possible, playing as good as basketball as possible, competing well, staying together as a team, that’s what’s most important to me at this time,” Bone said.