WSU Vs. Portland: Cougs Win On The Road Over The Pilots, 83-73

Washington State was able to take control of the game early with their inside advantage and kept Portland at an arm's length for the entire second half en route to a ten-point victory in front a crimson-laden Sunday night Chiles Center crowd.  Faisal Aden led all scorers with 21 points. Brock Motum was efficient again inside, with 13 points on 6-9 shooting.

The game was played at 79 possessions, which is a very fast pace. Portland generally is in the mid-sixties, so the Cougs were able to control the tempo. There were a lot of free throws taken on both sides, as WSU and UP posted 68.0 and 46.7 free throw rates respectively.

Some bullet-point style observations:

  • Nuss brought it up in the game thread: This team is terrible at getting back on defense. In the last game against Sacramento State and in this game, opponents have been able to take the ball and get down the floor for easy layups off quick outlet passes. It is especially frustrating in that it even happens after made baskets.
  • Don't let the 83 points fool you, this wasn't a real efficient offensive effort from the Cougs. 1.05 possessions is generally pretty solid, but Portland was absolutely unable to stop them on the inside and that number could have been much higher.
  • The biggest culprit? Turnovers. I mentioned in my preview that Portland is not a team that forces many turnovers, and the Cougs would have to make bad mistakes to give away possession. They certainly did that with a number of errant passes and wild drives leading to charges.
  • Aden once again led the way in giving the ball to the opposition, and once again it negates any effectiveness that comes from his shooting. Even after going 7-14 from the field and 6-7 from the free throw line, Faisal ended up contributing less than a point per possession used. Why? Because he turned the ball over six times.
  • Mychal Ladd needs to relax and let the game come to him. He is forcing too many shots right now and his percentages reflect that.
  • DaVonte Lacy came down to earth a little bit tonight as he had trouble taking care of the ball. However, he still manages to make impressive plays that show he has more polish than the average freshman. The most memorable one tonight came when Lacy had to jump to catch a cross-court pass from Reggie Moore. He calmly made a pump-fake in mid-air to juke the defender. He came down, took one dribble to his left and pulled up to hit a wide-open 17-footer.
  • Moore still looks hampered by his groin injury, but was still able to beat Portland's guards with regularity. That allowed him to drive-and-dish for eight assists on the night. Reggie is still struggling to score, though. That is going to have to change when the opponents get stronger.
  • Charlie Enquist was all over the stat sheet tonight. He used his 6-10 frame to play his best game as a Coug. Enquist's final line read eight points, four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Kyle Weaver would be proud.
  • On the defensive end the Cougs didn't let the three-point shot kill them like they have in the previous two games. Portland hit just 5 of 21 attempts and sharpshooter Nemanja Mitrovic was held to 2-8 from downtown.
  • Defensive rebounding was an issue. The Pilots pulled down around 37% of their own misses. It was a group effort for Portland, as Tanner Riley was the only one to play who didn't grab an offensive rebound. He only played three minutes.  With WSU's size advantage on the front line, they really should have been able to dominate the glass.
  • On the other end, WSU didn't do much work at all in offensive rebounding. They pulled down only about 15% of their own misses, less than half of the national average.
  • D.J. Shelton played significant minutes, logging 15. He really has a knack for drawing fouls and getting the free throw line. Sometimes he looks lost out there, but his athleticism and size allows him to make up for that. It's nice to have a "motor" type big-man that can come in for short periods and run all over the court making plays. Hopefully Shelton can provide that.
  • Portland had no answer for Motum early in the game, and made an effort to keep the ball out of his hands after he scored the Cougs' first three field goals. Brock showed off some nice passing skills, and was able to make the Pilots pay for their extra attention. He finished with three assists.
  • I'd like to apologize to the University of Portland for alerting the CougCenter faithful to their free, live webcast of the game. I don't think their servers were ready to handle us. Bufferin' and Threadin' for life, yo.

In the end, this is a good result for the Cougar basketball team. It was a dangerous game in that Portland had some shooters on the outside who could catch fire and pull the upset. Fortunately, WSU was able to recognize their advantage in the paint and thoroughly dominated the inside on offense. The Cougs only took nine three-pointers out of their 51 field goal attempts and were able to shoot 61% on twos. A ten-point victory on the road in which the game was never really in much doubt was the result.

Washington State will be back in action on Thanksgiving Day as they kick-off the 76 Classic against the Oklahoma Sooners. That game will be on WatchESPN.com. I'm guessing those guys will be able to handle the traffic you guys bring in.

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