You won’t see much of the Cougars from now until the Pac-12 season begins Jan. 5. Following Sunday’s game against Fresno State, WSU plays just three times during a 27-day stretch before taking on Washington in the Pac-12 opener. All three are considered “home” games, even though Jackson State is the lone game played in Pullman. Washington State’s remaining two games are Dec. 21 in Seattle against Buffalo, and Dec. 29 in Kennewick against Idaho State.
The week ahead: The schedule downshifts this week as WSU students are taking their final exams. The Cougars’ only game of the upcoming week is Jackson State (0-5) at 7 p.m.Thursday in Beasley Coliseum. The Pac-12 Network will televise the game.
Pity these Jackson State Tigers. They don’t play their first home game of the season until Jan. 2. JSU starts the season with an 11-game road stand, and Thursday’s contest in the middle of a meat grinder stretch for the Tigers. They’re on a four-game West Coast swing where Jackson State plays St. Mary’s, Washington State, Washington and Seattle during a six-day span.
Kelsey Howard, a 6-4 sophomore guard, is Jackson State’s leading scorer at 16.3 points a game. Senior guard Christian Williams is the Tigers’ top 3-point threat, and second-leading scorer at 14.6 points a game. Willie Readus, a 6-6, 250-pound forward, is JSU’s top rebounder at 6.6 per contest.
Jackson State has lost four of its five games by double digits. The Tigers’ lone competitive performance was an 84-75 loss at Texas Tech.
Jackson State has lost 10 consecutive games dating back to last season. The Tigers were 7-24 during the 2011-12 season.
Week in review: The Cougars (6-4) came out of the week with a split of two games, but it’s the loss that had everyone buzzing.
WSU took No. 10 Gonzaga to the limit before yielding 71-69 last Wednesday. The Cougars followed four days later with a 59-50 win over Fresno State.
The Gonzaga game didn’t deserve a loser, or at least deserved to go overtime. It took a length-of-the-floor circus layup by Kevin Pangos with two seconds remaining to break a 69-69 tie. For the Cougars, it ruined what was a riveting final seven minutes.
During the final 7:05, the Cougars erased a 56-45 deficit, scoring 24 points with a spectacular flurry of 3-point shooting by DaVonté Lacy and Brock Motum. There were times during the first half, and game’s stretch run, where Washington State showed sustained periods of solid defense.
This game left most WSU fans blue about the outcome, but excited about the performance. How much of this was due to the geographic rivalry, and how much was due to Washington State finally coming of age? Hard to say. But it’s hard to believe if the Cougars put forth a similar performance during the Pac-12 season, they’ll lose few, if any home games.
The Gonzaga game also marked the return of Lacy, out the past two weeks with a knee injury. Lacy is WSU’s second best player, if not at times the team’s co-best player along with Motum because of what he offers from the perimeter, as well as physical play. In his return, Lacy hit 8 of 15 shots and scored 22 points coming off the bench.
Lacy wasn’t nearly as effective in the 59-50 win over Fresno State, but thankfully, Motum was his usual reliable self. The senior forward poured in 23 points and grabbed eight boards against the Bulldogs, while Mike Ladd scored a season-high 19 points.
Motum doesn’t take a game off, particularly when he’s needed. Motum now has four consecutive 20-plus point games; during this stretch against Idaho, Portland, Gonzaga and Fresno State, Motum is averaging 25.2 points and seven boards per game, and is shooting 53.6 percent from the floor (37 of 69). The big man is also lighting it up from 3-point range, shooting 9 of 16 during the past four games.
Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel