The Washington State Cougars again struggled in the second half as a three-point lead at the break turned into a 82-71 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the opening game of the Cayman Islands Classic tournament.
The Cougs play the Old Dominion Monarchs in the consolation bracket today at 2 p.m. PT.
WSU closed out the first half strong against the Cornhuskers, leading 37-34 at the break. The Cougs trailed 25-21 midway through the period, but went on a 10-0 run to seize a 31-25 lead. They held the lead for the final nine minutes of the half, but didn’t score in the final four minutes — something they surely ended up lamenting. As is their M.O., they weren’t shooting all that great, but they were controlling the glass on both ends and turning seven offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points.
The second half was a completely different story. The Cornhuskers turned up the pace and the Cougars really struggled to contain it. Nebraska went on a 13-2 run almost right out of the gate to take a 49-42 lead, then around the midway point of the second half, went on another 13-2 run to extend their lead to a 69-53 lead that more or less sealed the game.
The biggest culprit? As it was in the loss to Omaha, hot shooting from beyond the arc: Nebraska went 5-of-7 from deep in the second half and overall shot 64% from the field — a whopping 74% eFG. This is not what you want to see in a second half shot chart:
That’s a lot of layups! And it’s part of a disturbing trend for the Cougars — these are the win probabilities in the three losses this season (via the indispensable kenpom.com):
CJ Elleby tried his best to keep the Cougars in the game, scoring 27 points on 21 shots while also grabbing six rebounds and contributing two steals, a block and an assist. But he again got very little help, as the team could muster just 0.91 points per possession. Isaac Bonton was the second leading scorer with 17 points, but it took him 19 shots to get there — and he also had four turnovers.
If you’re looking for positive news, Jaylen Shead returned from his apparent ankle injury to play 27 minutes; he led the team with eight rebounds and four assists. And freshman big man Volodymyr Markovetskyy gave them eight solid minutes, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds — including six offensive.
WSU now faces ODU in a matchup that could be one of the uglier games you’d see (if you were going to watch it). The Monarchs are 58th in adjusted defensive efficiency — the best team the Cougars have faced all season in that department — and lost their opener to George Mason despite giving up just 0.91 points per possession. They held three of their other five opponents below that, and have only allowed greater than 1.0 ppp twice. It’s going to be a real struggle for the Cougars to score.
They’re fueled by turnovers and defensive rebounding, two areas where the Cougars have performed pretty well this season. We’ll see if that can hold up in order for WSU to have a chance to win. WSU also is going to likely need to shoot well from three, as the Monarchs entice their opponents to shoot a lot from deep; this sure would be a nice one for Bonton to get going from out there.
On the bright side, the Old Dominion offense is pretty awful. They do take care of the ball and crash the glass (the inverse of what they do defensively), but they really struggle to shoot. So this one figures to be close. Kenpom.com predicts it to be a one-point game, while Vegas sees the Monarchs as a two-point favorite.
As in yesterday, your best bet for following the game is to listen to the radio broadcast; you can do that at TuneIn.com or via your local radio station. You can stream video, but it’ll cost you $30 for a one month subscription to Flohoops.
Nebraska pulls away from Washington St in 2nd half, 82-71 - Washington State University Athletics
WSU will face Old Dominion Tuesday.
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