Mike Ladd has stepped up his game in conference play, and he came through with his best performance of the season on Saturday night. His Washington State Cougars managed to avoid another late-game collapse and held on to defeat the Oregon State Beavers, 71-68, in Corvallis.
Ladd was huge for the Cougs in the first half. He scored WSU's first 13 points, much of it coming on the inside. He ended up with 17 of WSU's 29 first-half points, and finished with 23 points on 10-11 shooting.
As expected, the game was close for most of the way. Oregon State was able to open up a four-point halftime lead on a long three from Roberto Nelson. They continued to maintain the advantage throughout the first ten minutes of the second half, thanks in part to some surprising deep balls from freshman Langson Morris-Walker (3-4, was 1-15 coming into the game).
After being held to just four points in the first, Brock Motum turned it on in the second half. He hit on threes in the first two possessions, and continued scoring to end at 20 points with 10 rebounds.
With the help of Motum, WSU built an eight-point lead with 6:44 remaining in the game. Oregon State responded, but WSU got buckets from Ladd and Shelton to hold a 63-56 advantage with less than five minutes to play.
OSU would climb back in after Ladd was stripped on what looked to be a wide-open layup by Ahmad Starks. The resulting transition would end up with Starks burying a shot to pull the Beavs within 63-60.
Royce Woolridge played tough defense on Starks for much of the second half, then came up with two huge buckets in the lane in the final two minutes. The second put WSU up 68-64 with just over a minute left.
Motum fouled out on a blocking call on the ensuing possession. WSU was left to hold on without their top scorer.
After a questionable five-second call on Woolridge (where he got by Starks), Nelson scored on a putback when he blatantly pushed off a Cougar. DaVonte Lacy then missed two free throws, and Starks followed with a layup to cut the WSU lead down to 69-68 with 8.3 left. Woolridge would follow with a pair of free throws with 7.6 remaining.
Starks would miss a potential game-tying three at the buzzer, and WSU escaped with their first Pac-12 road win.