It wasn’t always pretty, but the Washington State Cougars coasted to an 87-73 win over the Florida A&M rattlers on Thursday night. Team’s don’t often win when giving the ball away 26 percent of the time, but WSU dominated every other facet enough to come away with a comfortable win in which it was never truly threatened.
An early run pushed the Cougs to a 25-5 advantage, and FAMU couldn’t bring the game within double digits at any point after that. There were good stretches by the Rattlers—most notably a 15-2 run late in the second half—but they weren’t enough to put the game in doubt.
WSU’s CJ Elleby is a major part of that—he often looked a class above everyone on the floor, chasing down rebounds, jumping passing lanes for steals, and scoring in a variety of ways. He finished with 25 points on 10-15 shooting, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and just a single turnover.
WSU’s guards weren’t so careful to avoid turnovers. A three-quarter court trapping press gave WSU fits for significant stretches. Jaylen Shead led the way with five turnovers, Isaac Bonton had an uncharacteristic four to go with another woeful shooting night (1-10), Noah Williams logged four to dampen an otherwise effective 10-point performance, and Jervae Robinson checked in with three giveaways.
Most turnovers were either the result of bad passes out of traps, or being forced into quick decisions off the dribble after beating the press. WSU hasn’t seen anything like FAMU’s press this season, but you can bet they will again at some point down the road. The giveaways were highly uncharacteristic for a team that came into the game second nationally in turnover rate. After that performance, Wazzu is now fifth.
When the Cougs did take care of the ball, they didn’t miss much—57 percent eFG%—and grabbed nearly half of their own misses. They also did well getting to the free throw line and saw six different players knock down a 3-pointer. One of those 3s was from freshman Ryan Rapp, who scored five points in just seven minutes but also checked in with two turnovers.
Marvin Cannon had one of his better games of the year, logging 11 points on just 3-4 shooting and pulling down eight rebounds. Jeff Pollard checked in with 12 points, half of which game on layups at the end of press breaks in the final stretch of the game.
On defense, WSU faltered down the stretch and allowed the Rattler offense to best its overall averages in points per possession (0.95) and effective field goal percentage (48.3). The barrage of Cougar turnovers certainly helped create some easy opportunities, but it still doesn’t look great to allow Florida A&M to its second-most efficient offensive performance of the season.
So it goes with a program in transition—every seeming step forward is met by some old habits that won’t die. Luckily, this type of sloppy performance came against a significantly overmatched opponent and still resulted in a double-digit win.
Another one of those overmatched opponents is up next. The Cougs take on Incarnate Word this Saturday at 4 p.m.