The Washington State Cougars were on the losing end of a frenetic finish last night as Kevin Pangos made a late layup to save his No. 10 Gonzaga team. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise fantastic college basketball game, and it showed exactly why upsets happen all the time: Stars can carry a team against a better foe with a superlative performance.
Last night, WSU's two best players were nails down the stretch, and it nearly resulted in a Cougar victory.
Sure, there was a gutty defensive performance from Junior Longrus on Elias Harris, and some surprisingly good minutes from Will DiIorio before his injury, but it was Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy who stepped up in the final minutes to resurrect a stagnant offense.
When Mike Hart drilled a three to put Gonzaga up 11 with just over six minutes left, WSU looked to be out of gas. The crowd was silenced and the energy had been sucked from the building.
That is when Lacy and Motum came alive. The two combined for five threes in the next 4 1/2 minutes, beating Washington State's entire offensive output in the first 14 minutes of the half.
The pair continued their excellence in the final seconds. They each hit clutch free throws. Motum came up with an NBA-range three to get the Cougs back in it. Lacy crossed over Gary Bell for an easy bucket to tie the game, setting up the sad ending.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this game, even in a loss. One easy reason is that WSU seems to have the ability to contend with almost any team in the country when their stars are at their best.
It's no surprise that Motum came up with the game he did. What should have Coug fans happy is the way Lacy was in control at the end. He looked like a senior, composed and making crucial plays look effortless.
If that was Lacy's coming out party as a big-time college basketball player, then it is good news for the Cougs going forward. He showed the ability to pull through in pressure situations in high school, as Jeff Nusser witnessed first-hand. And don't forget his game-winning three against Cal last season.
As we talked about in our pregame show last night, WSU has a good 1-7, it's just depth that is a concern. The Cougs proved against Gonzaga that they may have a 1-2 that could go toe-to-toe with almost anybody. Suddenly, their prospects in Pac-12 play don't seem so depressing.