Bear witness; Cougar men’s basketball battles Cal

Redshirt+senior+D.J.+Shelton+leads+the+team+onto+the+court+during+a+home+game+against+Oregon%2C+Jan.+26.

Redshirt senior D.J. Shelton leads the team onto the court during a home game against Oregon, Jan. 26.

Evan Baron | Evergreen Men's Basketball reporter

After losing two straight games on the road last week, WSU men’s basketball Head Coach Ken Bone is looking for a way to fix his team’s struggles.

The answer may be with the home environment of Beasley Coliseum, which the Cougars will experience tonight in a rematch with the California Golden Bears.  

The last time California (15-8, 6-4) faced the Cougars (9-14, 2-9) was Jan. 18, where the Golden Bears won by a margin of 21 points.

“I think we go into every game wanting to win, but in the fact that (California) did beat us last time, we want it kind of like a revenge (game), like you guys beat us on their home court and now we want to win our home court,” junior guard DaVonte Lacy said.

In order to win their third Pac-12 game of the season, here are three key areas the Cougars must execute tonight.

Compete the entire contest

The Cougars trailed California by only one point at halftime in the last time the two teams met, but in the second half of that game the Golden Bears went on a tear and outscored the Cougars by 20 points.

“It’s one thing to get beat or get outscored in a little bit early on in the first half,” Bone said in his Tuesday press conference. “Both those games (at California and at Colorado) are similar, Cal jumped on us kind of like Colorado did early on in the second half.”

The Cougars came out slow in the second half against Colorado, which hurt them in the end. WSU can’t expect to win merely by playing one solid half of basketball.

“I think it’s all about being more consistent,” sophomore forward Junior Longrus said. “I think when we’re good on defense, we’re real good on defense, one of the best in the Pac-12, but when we don’t do the little things, those kinds of things start to fall apart. So for us it’s about being consistent and keeping that energy.”

Refrain from deferring to Lacy

The good news for the Cougars is that their returning scorer DaVonte Lacy has shined since his return from injury. However with Lacy missing four weeks, the Cougars relied heavily on other players such as redshirt freshman Que Johnson and redshirt junior Dexter Kernich-Drew to be the primary scorers. Johnson, Kernich-Drew and the rest of the team must learn how to score with their leader back on the floor.

“I think it sometimes affects certain guys differently, but it has to,” Bone said, adding, “We need (Lacy) in the lineup, and all in all we need him, but I think it’s affected a couple guys.”

Bone said the presence of Lacy has led guys like Kernich-Drew and Johnson to defer to Lacy on the offensive end and lack the aggressiveness they showed while he was out.

In the last three games with Lacy back in the lineup, the Cougars have managed only one game where at least three players scored in double figures.

“Que played really well when I was gone, Dex played really well when I was gone, I think it’s partly my fault,” Lacy said of his teammates failing to be aggressive. “When I come into the game, obviously I’m going to score, but I think I need to be more of a playmaker, and get them shots, get my assists for them and make them have easier shots.”

Feed off the home crowd

Though the Cougars have had their struggles on the road this season, their two Pac-12 wins have come in front of the home crowd at Beasley Coliseum. The last time they won was a five point win against rival Washington.

 “(The fans) treated us so well last time we were out here,” Lacy said. “With the crowd, the noise level, it really affected Washington, I truly believe that (the fans) had a major factor in us winning that game. It really helps when they come out and support like that.”

The Cougars hope the fans will provide the same atmosphere tonight against Cal.

“It’s definitely nice to have that crowd, you know we understand that for them to want to come back and see games, we got to give them a show and put some wins on the board at home,” Longrus said. “So hopefully we have a good crowd this weekend and this week, so where we can kind of build some momentum as far as the fan base going into the end of Pac-12 (play).”