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March 6, 2013

Short-handed Cougs handle No. 23 UCLA

PULLMAN -- Washington State came into tonight's contest against UCLA riding a nine-game losing streak dating back to late January.  But that was hardly the most agonizing losing streak on the line in Beasley Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Dating back to February of 1993, the Cougars have failed to taste victory at home against the Bruins - a streak that spanned over 20 years - and walked away with losses in their previous eight meetings.

But, on this night, those losing streaks were put to rest.

The shorthanded Cougars (12-18, 3-14 Pac-12) played inspired basketball from the opening tip and, led by a game-high 20 points from Brock Motum, improbably knocked off the No. 23 Bruins, 73-61.

"It means a lot," Bone said of his team's victory.  "We've been scrutinized quite a bit about how bad we are, how we've lost this game and that game, how we lose the games.

"It's nice to go out and beat a quality team and play good basketball."

Washington State played without sophomore guard DaVonte Lacy and senior guard Mike Ladd (knee), who missed his sixth consecutive game.  During the pregame radio show Ken Bone announced that Lacy would miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee, which will require surgery later this week.

Royce Woolridge came up in a big way to compliment Motum in the scoring department, finishing with 19 points to score in double figures for the ninth time in his last ten games.

Quietly putting together the best all-around game of his Washington State career, Dexter Kernich-Drew registered his first career double-double, scoring 11 points and adding 11 rebounds.

"A number of kids stepped up tonight," Bone said.  "For Dexter to come up with several key rebounds and the effort he played with - I haven't seen that a whole lot but tonight I thought he played extremely well and hard."

The Cougars, however, didn't miss a beat without their second- and third-leading scorers, en route to shooting 49 percent for the game.

More impressively, though, the Cougars outrebounded the Bruins 46-23 while thoroughly dominating the offensive glass.

"It was very impressive for us to come up with 21 offensive rebounds and for them to come up with 23 total rebounds and obviously we don't have the size," Bone said.  "It was great to see."

The Cougars took control of the game from the start, eventually building a 25-4 lead at the 8:33 mark of the first half before the Bruins (22-8, 12-5) marched back.

An 11-3 run cut the lead to 13 with just under four minutes to go before half, but the Cougars, as they did all night, answered each left hook with an upper cut of their own to head into halftime with a rather comfortable -- albeit nervous -- 35-24 lead.

"I feel like our kids played with a great level of poise," Bone said of his team's performance each time the Bruins made a run.  "We really didn't panic during the game."

It wasn't the prettiest basketball the Cougars have played this season - committing 18 turnovers to UCLA's 12 -- but the Bruins didn't do themselves any favors, shooting a dismal 38 percent from the floor and unable to capitalize on any momentum throughout the contest.

With 4:52 left in the game, Shabazz Muhammed, who was held to just 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting, stole a Motum pass for a fast break dunk to cut the Cougars' lead to 60-52.

Washington State was able to hit their free throw's while in the double bonus in the waning minutes of the game, finishing 14-of-19 from the charity stripe to ice the win.

The game ended with a flurry of dunks from Will DiIorio and D.J. Shelton, exciting a sparsely populated crowd at Beasley and at the same time igniting a Washington State team that has suffered their fair share of lumps along the road.

"There was some emotion that came out on the floor and I saw it again when we got into the locker room," Bone said.  "It's nice to see these guys rewarded with a win and excited about playing hard, playing together and doing the things we've been trying to do all season long."

Game Notes:
  • Motum passed Marcus Moore to move into sixth place on WSU's all-time career scoring list…he now has 1,471 points…he's 25 points away from moving into fifth.
  • The Cougars snapped their eight-game losing streak over ranked opponents, getting their first win over a ranked opponent since Jan. 30, 2011 when they defeated No. 18 Washington.
  • The Cougars will honor Mike Ladd and Brock Motum on Senior Day this Saturday in the conference regular season finale against USC at 3:30 p.m. (TV, Pac-12 Networks) in Pullman.

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