Faster than you can say "whoa, WSU is 3-1 in the Pac-12?", the good vibes from the Cougars' quick start to the conference season have disappeared as a disastrous trip through the mountain time zone culminated with a severe beating at the hands of Colorado, 90-58.
It was a game that appeared winnable, based on the mere fact that Colorado had lost four in a row and again was playing without two of its top players (Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson), and the Cougars figured to get even more of a boost from the fact that Askia Booker started the game on the bench after showing up late for a team meeting.
But the Buffaloes did what everyone does to the Cougars these days: Score. A lot. Pretty much at will.
Colorado started the game on a 19-5 run and never looked back, coming out with high energy and endeavoring to beat WSU at it's own uptempo game. It worked, as the Buffs repeatedly beat the Cougars down the floor in transition, and when WSU was lucky enough to force Colorado into a halfcourt set, the Buffs shredded WSU's awful zone.
The ugly numbers at the break: Colorado led 47-31 after hitting 6-of-12 threes and 17-of-30 overall to post a whopping 1.31 points per possession. Seven different Buffaloes had four or more points.
Needless to say, it really didn't get any better. WSU couldn't stop or even slow down Colorado -- the game was played at 70 possessions when Colorado typically wants to be in the low 60s, and the Buffs still ran away with it, largely because for the third straight game, the Cougar offense was horrendous.
Although the hope is that it's a bit less bad than it's been, we sort of expect the defense to be bad. But the offense has now been held under 1.0 points per possession for the third consecutive game since the outburst against Oregon, and it's back to the drawing board for Ernie Kent.
One disturbing trend? Here's the shot distribution in Pac-12 play, via Kenpom.com:
When Jordan Railey is on the floor, he's taking more shots than anyone. And he played a lot of minutes on this road trip. While I'm a fan of Railey's development and can appreciate some of the other things he's bringing to the floor -- blocking shots, taking up space, etc. -- running the offense through him is a bold strategy, Cotton.
To be frank, the Cougs just looked worn down both physically and mentally in this one, whether it was getting beaten down the floor in transition or repeatedly lacking patience on offense before hoisting a jumper with no offensive rebounders in sight.
In particular, Josh Hawkinson looked tired. I've been wondering if the heavy minutes might catch up with the sophomore, and after a night in which he scored just 12 points on 11 shots with zero free throw attempts and only seven rebounds -- with a number of other rebounds being snatched away from him -- it's easy to wonder if the legs are finally starting to go a little bit, as many of his jumpers came up short. Same for DaVonte Lacy, who needed 13 attempts to score his 12 points.
That said, the Cougars aren't the first team to get beaten up on this road trip (which happens to be at significant altitude), and they still are 3-4 in the conference after playing five of their first seven on the road. Before Pac-12 play, I think we all assumed they'd be no better than 1-6 if they could somehow get one from Oregon State at home. Instead, they've already picked up a pair of Pac-12 victories away from home and now get to play five of the next seven at Beasley Coliseum, including Thursday's tilt with a Cal team they've already beaten.
I think it's just what this team needs.