WSU traveled to Stanford for its Pac-12 season opener and came away with the first of what are probably going to be many conference losses, unable to overcome a poor shooting afternoon on the way to a 71-56 loss to the Cardinal.
The Cougars shot 32.6 percent from the floor, including a paltry 28.6 percent from behind the arc (4-of-14). As is so often the case, the team's shooting performance was tied directly to DaVonte Lacy, who had an incredibly rough afternoon: 3-of-9 overall (including 0-of-5 from three) and 3-of-9 from the free throw line. He finished with nine points, just the third time this year he's failed to reach double digits.
WSU lost those two other games, as well.
The loss is especially frustrating because the Cougs really did a number of things well, especially offensively. They didn't turn the ball over -- just nine giveaways in 63 possessions -- and they took advantage of some active officiating to get to the free throw line a whopping 39 times.
But the Cougars just couldn't take advantage; after entering the game 44th nationally from the free throw line at nearly 74 percent, the Cougs could only muster 24 makes (61.5 percent) -- 11 of them Josh Hawkinson, who scored all of his points from the line to go along with 15 rebounds for yet another double-double.
The rest of the team was 13-of-25 from the line.
WSU trailed by just three at the half, thanks in large part to the difficulties of Stanford's leading scorer Chasson Randle, who had but a solitary point while dealing with a bit of foul trouble. But he turned it on in the second half, scoring 17 points after the break to finish with a game-high 18. Stefan Nastic consistently posed a matchup problem on the interior, scoring 16 points, while Anthony Brown quietly had a double-double of his own with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
If you're looking for a silver lining, center Jordan Railey had himself a heck of a game. He finished seven points, three rebounds and two blocks -- stats that look a bit less modest when you consider he compiled them in 13 minutes. Frankly, he was WSU's best player when he was on the floor, drawing fouls on offense and neutralizing Nastic on defense. I'm not much of a believer in raw +/- stats, but I don't think it's merely noise that Railey was +10, the only WSU player to finish with a positive rating.
The problem, of course, is that Railey fouled out in those 13 minutes, but I'm becoming more hopeful that he can make a difference for WSU before his career ends.
The bottom line in this one? It underscored the fact that WSU simply doesn't do enough other things well enough to overcome the inevitable vagaries of shooting. We know the defense is bad - WSU gave up another 1.13 points per possession today - and the offense has to be able to overcome that. When the team shoots like it did today, a loss is an almost certainty.
WSU finishes up it's conference-opening road trip with a game at Cal on Sunday at 3 p.m. That also will be on Pac-12 Networks.