Well, if there was ever a doubt that #TheProcess is still not complete, tonight should serve as a stark reminder. The Cougar offense took a Yeoman's step backward tonight against the Oregon State Beavers, losing 62-47 in a game that never seemed even that close.
For the entire first half, the Cougar guards, DaVonte Lacy, Ike Iroegbu and Ny Redding, looked completely lost against the zone, failing to work the ball inside, and turning the ball over anytime the ball was rotated around the three-point line. Cougar guards weren't taking shots and Cougar big men were settling for jump shots outside their range. At the 10:53 mark when Ernie Kent had seen enough and called timeout, this is what the WSU shot chart looked like:
Don't see a lot of 25's or 0's on there, do you?
After the timeout, the Cougs did make a concerted effort to get the ball inside a little more, with both Jordan Railey and Josh Hawkinson making shots under the basket, but again, absolutely nothing from the guards. After dropping 57 1st half points against the Ducks Thursday night, WSU entered their locker room tonight with a paltry 16.
The second half saw things open up wide for the Beavers from the get-go. Oregon State's first possession lasted over a minute and ended in an easy layup for Daniel Gomis; Iroegbu airballed a three on the ensuing possession, another layup from Malcolm Duvivier posting up Trevor Dunbar and a careless inbound pass from Hawkinson led to a steal and dunk from Gary Payton II. The Beavers led 31-16 and never looked back.
Washington State did not get a single point from a guard until the 15:00 of the SECOND HALF when Que Johnson stole a ball at midcourt and found himself with a breakaway layup. A field goal from a guard did not come from an offensive set until a minute or so later when Lacy was unable to convert a 3-point play.
You know what makes the lack of guard scoring exponentially worse? WSU played small virtually the entire game. Jordan Railey saw limited minutes in the first half and didn't see the floor in the 2nd half and Junior Longrus was a healthy scratch. Coach Kent deployed lineups of four guards and Hawkinson, or three guards, Hawkinson and Boese almost exclusively the entire night. So not only was Hawkinson completely overmatched by the much larger Gomis, Jarmal Reid and Cheikh N`diaye defensively in the paint, the Cougs were completely unable to make up for it by speeding up the game, getting out in front of the defense to get a good early shot or force pressure on the Beaver offense into making mistakes.
While the game never really seemed in doubt, WSU was able to keep the margin around 10-12 points for the majority of the 2nd half. DaVonte Lacy scored on three consecutive possessions at the seven minute mark to pull the Cougs within 8 (and scored eleven points in the span of five minutes), but coupled with every mini-run the Cougs went on in the second half-was a momentum killing three pointer, one from Olaf Schaftenaar, one from Langston Morris-Walker and...another one from Langston Morris-Walker to force WSU to start fouling with two minutes left in the game. The Cougs' 2nd half spray-chart ended up looking like this:
This felt like a definitive step back, both in the performance on the court and the personnel deployment by the coach. I know there's a chicken-and-egg scenario that pressure is hard to dial up if you can't make shots and you can't make shots if you aren't running your own tempo, but there was a cognizant decision by the staff to keep the big men on the bench tonight and the WSU offense didn't move any differently. Oregon State just dared the Cougs to shoot outside the paint the entire first half, and not only did WSU overwhelmingly oblige, they compounded it by missing seemingly every open shot they took. This game felt eerily similar to everything WSU went through last year where the Cougs would fall significantly behind, DaVonte Lacy would go on a late scoring spree to keep you from changing the channel, and then the wheels would fall off at the five minute mark..
Even though I am now a full-fledged subscriber of #TheProcess, nights like tonight should not be acceptable. Washington State has had three months to figure out how to move the ball around a 2-3 zone and still looks woefully inept, despite deploying a four-guard lineup for most of the evening. And while Thursday night's shooting performance was indeed incredibly unsustainable, WSU has to find ways to assert their guards into the ballgame, as nobody on Earth thinks 90% of the shots should be put up by Hawkinson and Boese.
Washington State drops to 9-8 on the year and 3-2 in the Pac-12; the Cougs have also now lost four in a row to Oregon State. We now look ahead to a trip to the mountains, where a ranked Utah team awaits the team on Wednesday night.