The Washington State Cougars put together a solid defensive night, but their offense was stifled all night as the long and athletic Arizona Wildcats sent the Cougs to a 66-49 defeat at Beasley Coliseum.
WSU (13-10 overall, 4-6 Pac-12) actually did a strong job against an Arizona offense ranked 10th nationally in opponent-adjusted efficiency. The Wildcats entered the game second in Pac-12 play, scoring 1.06 points per possession, but WSU held them to just 1.02 — a mark that Kyle Smith probably would have thought before the game might have given his team a chance to win.
But the Cougars shot just 37 percent overall and only 3-of-18 from 3-point range; the resulting 39.8 effective field goal percentage was the third worst of the season. The Cougs not only found precious little space to shoot, but many of the passing lanes they’ve become used to exploiting — particularly Jeff Pollard’s slips off of ball screens — just weren’t there.
CJ Elleby bore the brunt of it, scoring just 7 points — all in the first six minutes of the game — on 2-of-12 shooting. WSU coach Kyle Smith mentioned after Wednesday’s game that Elleby had been battling sickness. He also took a knock in this one that he was slow to get up from, and the result was just his third game in single digit scoring this season, and first since January 11 against Stanford. He also had just four rebounds and one assist.
Overall, the Cougars scored just 0.75 points per possession, their lowest output of the season despite turning the ball over on just 14% of their possessions. Isaac Bonton was the only WSU player to score in double digits, and he needed 16 shots to score his 15 points. It was so bad that the Cougs also shot just 6-of-13 from the free throw line.
Super freshmen Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji, who headlined Arizona’s sixth-ranked recruiting class, get all the press, but it was Cornell graduate transfer Stone Gettings that did the vast majority of the damage. He missed a bunch of games midway through the season due to a concussion, but the stretch four has been increasing his contributions as of late, and he put together his best game of the season: 19 points, 12 rebounds.
Of course, Mannion and Nnaji — who both will probably be in the NBA next year — were good, too; 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals for the point guard and 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks for the big man.
Nowhere was the athleticism disadvantage more stark than on the glass: The Wildcats cleaned up nearly 90% of the Cougars’ plethora of missed shots, meaning an otherworldly shooting night would have been required for WSU to have any real shot at winning the game.
There were a handful of positive developments for the Cougars. First, Marvin Cannon made his return to the lineup, and the 6-5 wing played 10 minutes in his return, scoring 3 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.
Second, 7-foot-1 freshman Volodymyr Markovetskyy put together his second consecutive solid game — his size neutralized Nnaji for some pretty good stretches, and he scored 4 points with 4 rebounds. His 16 minutes were a season high.
Third, Arizona grabbed roughly a third of their own misses, an area where WSU normally excels; the Wildcats also turned it over on fewer than 10% of their possessions. That the Cougars were able to hold the Wildcats to their fifth-lowest offensive output of the season through strong shooting defense is something that bodes well for the future.
Lastly: The Cougars finally wore their crimson uniforms at home, and they looked spectacular on the new gray/anthracite floor. Do more of that, WSU.
WSU is now off for seven days, getting back into action next weekend when the Cougars host the Washington Huskies on Sunday at 3 p.m. ESPNU will have the broadcast.