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December 2, 2012

Motum, Woolridge lead WSU to win over Pilots

PULLMAN -- It was a coming out party for point guard Royce Woolridge on Saturday as the redshirt sophomore had a career night, helping lead Washington State to a convincing 72-60 win of over Portland at Beasley Coliseum.

Woolridge, the former Kansas transfer who has been asked to take over the starting point guard duties this season, was coming off of a dismal shooting performance against Idaho where he failed to record a single point on 0-of-8 shooting.

But on this night, Woolridge was a man possessed, scoring a career-high 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He also added seven rebounds and three assists.

The Cougars (5-3), who won their third consecutive game, had no shortage of scoring surplus as Brock Motum eclipsed a season-high 26 points against the Vandals with an impressive 29 points on 10-of-20 from the field.

The senior Aussie played just 27 minutes, but was unstoppable in the post and finally found his stroke from three-point range, connecting on two of his three attempts from deep.

It was an all-around team effort as the Cougars suffocated the Pilots (3-4) on the defensive end, holding Portland to just 28% shooting throughout the first 20 minutes of the game.

WSU took their first lead with 16:58 remaining in the first half on a Motum three-point basket and went on a 22-4 run, highlighted by nine consecutive Woolridge points, to take a commanding 27-11 lead with 8:31 remaining in the half.

A 13-4 run by the Pilots brought them within striking range just before halftime as the Cougars lead shrunk to 10 at the break, 33-23.

The Pilots, who finished the game shooting 36% from the floor, took half of their attempts from the perimeter. Portland hung around during the first few minutes of the second half, heating up from behind the arc, eventually cutting the Cougars lead to six, at 36-30 with 18:09 to go.

But the Cougars - as they have so many times during their three game win streak - responded by settling down their offense and waiting for open looks.

Trailing by double-digits the majority of the second half, the Pilots were forced to abandon their presence on the interior and rely on outside shots. Portland continually missed deep jumpers, leaving the Cougars with long rebounds that allowed them to get out and run, eventually extending the lead to 71-47 with just under five minutes to go.

Coming into the game, it looked as though the Cougars would struggle to rebound the ball as Portland boasted a significant height advantage, but that wasn't the case. Washington State outrebounded the Pilots 45-to-27 and controlled the offensive glass 12-to-4.

The Cougars' dominance down low was highlighted by 32-points in the paint, which easily could have been more if it weren't for countless missed layups in the first half.

Dexter Kernich-Drew saw his consecutive games in double digit scoring end at three, as the redshirt sophomore struggled from the three-point range, on his way to seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. The rising guard, who has filled in for the injured DaVonte Lacy, did contribute in other areas as he has all season. Kernich-Drew added six rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of work.

Lacy, who was injured against Kansas and has missed the past four games, was seen shooting before the game without any brace on his injured left knee and didn't appear to be limping.

Washington State improved from the free-throw line, knocking down 17-of-22 from the charity stripe. They did not, however, capitalize on Wednesday's four-turnover performance against Idaho, as they committed 12 turnovers - eight in the second half.

Portland was led by Ryan Nicholas who scored 17 points and added nine rebounds. Nicholas was the Pilots' only consistent scorer on the night as Portland struggled to find any momentum on the offensive end.

Washington State now faces another tough test next Wednesday as they hold host to rival Gonzaga at 8 p.m. in Pullman.

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