Motum nets 26, WSU outlasts Idaho 64-55

PULLMAN -- Washington State
certainly didn't play their best basketball and shot it poorly from
outside but they were good enough on Wednesday night to hold off a
pesky Idaho team en route to a 64-55 win at Beasley Coliseum.
The Vandals, much like last year's game in Moscow, were down at
halftime by a sizable margin but continued to fight.  The Cougars
had to rally on multiple occasions throughout the game to ensure the
victory and down the stretch, they executed when they needed to in
order to come out of the game with a win.
"I thought our guys had great composure down the stretch and I think it
was a game that we needed," Washington State head coach Ken Bone said
after the game.  "I said before the game that I was hoping we
would play really well but I also mentioned that I hoped it would be a
close ballgame because we need to play in some close games and learn
how to win these."
There were spurts when WSU played well but came out sluggish in the
first few minutes of the opening half before really taking control of
the game.
A Mike Ladd layup with 15:00 to go in the first half gave the
Cougars (4-3) their first lead of the game at 8-6 and they would never
trail again, leading by as many as 13 at one point.
Behind Brock Motum, who scored 12 of his season-high 26 points
in the first half, the Cougars cruised into the break with a 34-25 lead.
Motum, as he's done so many times throughout his career, put the team
on his shoulders and was, once again, the Cougars' go-to guy down the
stretch.  His unorthodox playing style and ability to find ways to
score was on full display tonight.
"Brock is just a hard guy to guard and they did a good job of switching
things up and putting some different people on him throughout the
course of the game," Bone said of Motum's play.  "At the end of
the day he's a hard kid to defend because he can score a variety of
It was easy to tell that the Cougars' outside shot wasn't going to fall
on this night.  WSU was just 3-of-15 (20%) from behind the arc,
forcing the Cougars to shift their offensive attack inside the paint.
And they did just that.
WSU scored 44 of their 64 points in the blocks and after settling down
their offense and working for open shots, the Cougars found lanes and
attacked the rim with confidence. 
Dexter Kernich-Drew continued his solid year, time and time again
slashing to the rack for easy layups.  Kernich-Drew finished with
a career-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting while adding four rebounds
and four assists - his third consecutive game in double figures.
"Dexter had a good game and hit some big shots," Bone said.  "He
also grabbed some rebounds, which I think it was a career high for him,
and for him to get some assists I think he did a really good job."
Despite the Cougars' dominance on the inside, Idaho wouldn't go away
The Vandals (1-4) clawed their way back into the game in the second
half, cutting the lead to 36-33 on an 8-2 run just two minutes into the
second half.  In a game of runs, the Cougars would counter with an
11-2 run of their own to take a 47-35 lead after two Motum free throws
with 10:35 remaining.
Just when WSU looked to be pulling away, the Vandals fought
back.  The Cougars went cold from the field, scoring just four
points over a five minute span and a 13-2 run by the Vandals, keyed by
deep three's from Stephen Madison and Connor Hill,
kept hope alive. 
Idaho guard Mansa Habeeb nailed a three from the corner to cut
the Cougars lead to just two at 51-53 with 3:47 remaining.
With the Cougars struggling to find any offensive rhythm and failing to
convert time and time again, D.J. Shelton erupted.  The
junior forward, who tied a career-high with 14 points, answered
Habeeb's three with his second trey of the game as the shot clock
"He can shoot," Bone said.  "I think he's 5-for-8 now on the year
from the three point line and he won't shoot a lot of them, obviously,
but he's a pretty good three-point shooter."
The rip of the net after the Shelton three ignited the Cougars big-man
as he went on a mini 7-2 run of his own, sandwiched by two Kernich-Drew
free throws. 
On consecutive possessions with under two minutes to play, Shelton
drove the lane with the poise of a point guard in a 6-10 body,
connecting on two acrobatic scores in the lane to extend the lead to
63-55 with 1:03 left.  And that was that.
"D.J. Shelton, what a great job on the offensive end he did in that
last three or four minutes," Bone said about his junior forward.
Quite frankly, the Cougars won this game because they took care of the
Royce Woolridge, despite a disappointing 0-of-8 shooting
night, was able to run the offense exceptionally adding three assists and committing just one of the Cougars' four turnovers for the game.
"It was outstanding," Bone said of his team's ability to take care of
the ball.  "When you play a game of 40-minutes in a close game and
only commit four turnovers you're doing some good things.  I was
very pleased with the decisions we made on the offensive end."
Three Vandals scored in double figures led by Madison's 13
points.  Hill added 10 points aided by 2-of-5 shooting from three
and Vandal center Kyle Barone was a force inside in the second
half, scoring 11 points and adding eight rebounds.
"I think Idaho did a great job of coming back and they would just not
go away," Bone said of the Vandals performance.  "They deserve a lot of credit
for making it a close game but I like the way our guys handled the
situation down the stretch."
The Cougars have four more games at home during their six-game home
stand, beginning with Portland on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in a tune-up
for a nationally televised game against No. 12 Gonzaga on December 5th.