WSU hangs on in Cougar Hardwood Classic

SEATTLE - In a game that
turned out to be a lot closer than many would have expected, Washington
State outlasted a feisty Buffalo team in a 65-54 victory in the Cougar
Hardwood Classic at KeyArena in Seattle.  Since it's inception
eight years ago, the Cougars (8-4) have gone 8-0 in the annual Seattle
area classic.
The Cougars started out slow; committing turnovers on their first two
possessions allowing the Bulls (4-8) to jump out to an early 7-0 on
easy baskets underneath.  WSU started the game out on fire from
behind the arc and erased the early deficit with a 23-5 run with 11:50
left in the half.
Sticking with a zone defense throughout the majority of the first half,
the Cougars continually left the Bulls with wide-open shots from the
perimeter and Buffalo took full advantage of their opportunities. Both
teams hit 7-of-11 three's in the first half.
Tony Watson, a reserve guard getting minutes in place of
injured starting point guard Jarod Oldham, was among a
number of players that couldn't be stopped from deep.  The
senior keyed a late scoring run in the first half with back-to-back
triples, giving the Bulls a 37-35 lead heading into the locker room.
Watson led the Bulls in the scoring column, finishing the game with 18
points and four assists in an efficient 25 minutes of work.
The story in this game, however, was the battle in the trenches between
Pac-12 and Washington State leading scorer Brock Motum and
Buffalo's leading scorer, Javon McCrea.
McCrea had a game to forget.  The Bulls' big man was averaging
16.8 points a contest heading in, but on Friday night he was held to
just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in just 16 minutes.  The
Cougars' zone did a great job of not allowing him to find anything open
inside and, after switching to a smothering man-to-man defense in the second half, he was completely eliminated from the game.
Motum struggled to get anything going early, hitting just 3-of-8 shots
in the opening half to the tune of seven points and going scoreless for
nearly 25 minutes until the midway mark of the second half. 
Buffalo was visibly frustrating the Cougars' leading scorer, sending
two defenders his way every time he touched the ball.
With 8:16 left in the game, Buffalo held a 47-45 lead in a tightly
played second half.  Motum, who finished with 15 points despite
shooting just 5-of-16 from the floor, finally got things going with a
triple from the wing, putting the Cougars on top 48-47.
Buffalo would take a brief one point lead with just over seven minutes
to go before going cold from the floor, hitting just one of their final
eight shots, opening the door for the Cougars to take control of the
And that they did.
A Dexter Kernich-Drew three - the Cougars' 10th and final
three-point make of the game -- gave WSU a 56-50 lead.  The
breathing room allowed them to extend their defense, putting more
pressure on a frustrated Bulls offense resulting in turnovers. 
The Bulls finished the game committing 13 turnovers despite handing it
over just five times in the first half.
DaVonte Lacy was excellent in his first game back in the
starting lineup.  The sophomore guard knocked down 5-of-7 shots,
all from behind the arc, including four in the first half.  Lacy
cooled down as the game wore on, scoring just five points in the second
half, but finished the game leading all scorers with 19 points and was
one of the few bright spots from the charity stripe.
Lacy knocked down all four of his free throws but as a team the
Cougars knocked down just 13-of-25 (54.2%) from the line.  WSU
made 21-of-48 (43.8%) from the field while Buffalo finished shooting
37.7% after hitting over 55% of their shots in the first half.
The Cougars will have another week off before taking on Idaho State in
Kennewick next Saturday, December 29 in their final non-conference
contest before the start of Pac-12 play against Washington in Pullman.