The Washington State Cougars notched their first Pac-12 win of the season with a 75-65 over the Utah Utes on Wednesday night. The Cougs were hot from three for most of the game, hitting seven of their first nine attempts and finishing 11-20 from beyond the arc. Mike Ladd led the three-point barrage, knocking down five on his way to a team-high 22 points.
All five starters ended up with double-figures as the Utes frustrated Brock Motum early. This time the rest of the Cougs stepped up and knocked down open looks to build a lead. Motum turned it on, as he usually does, in the second half to finish with 14 points (he was shut out in the first).
WSU built it's lead to 16 at 47-31 midway through the first half, but the Utes then went on a 10-0 after switching to a zone a befuddling the Cougar offense. This has happened multiple times this year.
Six was as close as the Utes would get, as Motum knocked down a three to squelch the run. That was followed by two technical foul free throws and a three from Royce Woolridge to build the lead back to a comfortable cushion. Utah wouldn't any closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Utah helped the Cougs out with a number of unforced turnovers. I said in the preview that the Cougs would need to exploit that aspect of the Utes' game, and they did. Utah turned the ball over 25 percent of the time. That sunk them in a game where they were also unusually hot from the outside, hitting 8 of 17.
Don't rush to judgment and say this team has suddenly solved things offensively, even with the 1.12 points per possession (the game played at a faster-than expected pace thanks to three-minutes of fouling from the Utes at the end). The three-point shooting isn't likely to happen again. The encouraging part? The rest of the team was not afraid to pull the trigger when Motum was struggling.
The Cougs will try for the weekend sweep when they host Colorado on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT.