Cougs enter tourney on promising streak
One week ago, the Washington State Cougars were riding a 9-game losing streak and all hope was seemingly loss. However, now we are here at season’s end on a 2-game winning streak – the longest of the season in conference play – and budding the possibility of maybe having somewhat of a chance in the Pac 12 tournament.
March 6th the 1 seed UCLA Bruins traveled to Pullman to embark on what was thought to be a slaughter. The Cougars didn’t get the memo, as they came bursting out of the gates building an early lead and holding it all game long.
It was the biggest win of the season for the Cougs. Not only because it was against #23 UCLA, but it was with a team pieced together by scotch tape.
DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd were both out due to knee injuries – Lacy for the season. Starting in their place were Dexter Kernich-Drew and Will DiIorio, both capable players but nowhere near the offensive efficiency. Not to mention the thinning of the bench.
But Ken Bone and the Cougars didn’t let this affect their play, and they took the victory with astounding promise.
The final game of the season was against USC on the Cougars’ senior night. This game showed even more encouragement, defeating the Trojans 76-51 behind Brock Motum‘s 31 points and 10 rebounds - Royce Woolridge added 25 himself.
The Cougs held the lead the entire game, and just when USC started to make a run Woolridge answered with 4-consecutive three pointers – setting the score at 66-46 with 4:42 remaining.
These victories were both results from a team playing at a level they had yet to reach all season long. Something finally clicked in their heads – maybe it was the senior’s final chance to make an impact, maybe it was the nearing days of the tournament – but whatever it was, it has lit a fire under these Cougars and they aren’t showing any signs of letting up.
These two teams had tight-knit battles in both of their match ups earlier this season. The Huskies won both, but with a combined margin of victory of 9 points. The Cougars held second half leads in both games, but fell into the season template of squandering it away in the final minutes.
The path to the championship is far from prohibitive
It won’t be a walk in the park – by any means – but each contest is very winnable.
If the Cougars defeat the Huskies, they would then play the Oregon Ducks. The Cougars match up very well with Oregon, losing to them by 7 and by 2 in OT – both after holding second half leads.
If they can keep this nothing-to-lose attitude and defeat the Ducks, they would then play either Cal or the winner of USC and Utah. Chances are Cal will make their way to the semi finals, and this would be the biggest challenge thus far. Cal defeated the Cougars 67-54 in January, but again this was after the Cougars held a second half lead.
Finally, if the Cougars found a way to defeat these teams and make it to the championship, the team likely waiting at the top will be either Arizona or UCLA. If it is in fact UCLA, we already know what happened last time the teams met.
Now take this path with a grain of salt, considering they have yet to defeat the Huskies, Ducks, or Golden Bears. Holding second half leads show that they can compete with the teams, yet have yet to show they can finish.
The Cougars remain the darkest of the horses, but the way they finished their season gives hope to the 11 seed.
The Cougars play the Huskies on Wed. at 8:30 pm (PT).