The Washington State Cougars continued their recent slide as the Oregon Ducks cruised to a 72-61 victory behind an onslaught of steals.
The Cougars started the game fairly well, as the two teams traded leads for the first 10 minutes or so. WSU wasn’t shooting especially well, but they were scrapping for offensive rebounds, and the extra possessions paid off to the tune of a couple of extra buckets. The Ducks led for the following five minutes, but never by more than two possessions.
Then, the final four minutes happened. Oregon hit four consecutive three pointers — after making just three of their first 10 — and the Cougs missed a few threes while adding some turnovers. The Ducks finished the half on an 18-8 run, and what had been a competitive game quickly felt as if it was slipping away as WSU trailed by 11 at the break, 41-30.
The Cougars again showed some life to start the second half, hitting the first two buckets — including an Ahmed Ali 3-pointer off a baseline out of bounds play — but just like the first game against the Ducks, the offense went inexplicably cold from there, scoring just three baskets between the 18:11 mark and 7:49.
Actually, “inexplicably” is way too strong. “Bafflingly” is probably closer, since there was a simple explanation, again: Turnovers. WSU gave the ball away a whopping 10 times in the first 12 minutes of the second half, short circuiting any chance they might have had to make a game of it. On the possessions that didn’t end in a giveaway, WSU was often stagnant with the ball, settling for low-percentage jumpers. Oregon stretched its lead to 18 with nine minutes to play, effectively ending the competitive portion of the game.
The Ducks throttled back, for the most part. And to be honest, they didn’t have to try that hard to maintain their lead, what with the Cougs repeatedly throwing the ball away and playing defense like this:
Ladies and gentlemen, your WSU defense! pic.twitter.com/gqQiWUYJ8m— CougCenter (@CougCenter) March 7, 2019
Oh no. pic.twitter.com/utjs5hrAeh— CougCenter (@CougCenter) March 7, 2019
In all, WSU gave the ball away 17 times in 67 possessions — more than 25 percent. When combined with a subpar shooting night (48% effective field goal percentage), the Cougars could only muster a meager 0.91 points per possession, their third consecutive game of 0.91 or less in a league where the median offense scores 1.06.
Much of that has to do with Robert Franks and CJ Elleby, each of whom continue to struggle to score with any kind of efficiency — they combined for just 26 points on 7 of 23 shooting with eight turnovers.
The turnovers doomed the defense, too — 11 of those 17 giveaways were steals, leading to 17 fast break points. Even if your halfcourt defense is good, it’s tough to survive that.
Paul White led Oregon with 21 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals, while Peyton Pritchard dropped in 15 points with seven assists and three steals.
The Cougs play their final game of the regular season on Saturday at noon PT against the Oregon State Beavers.