PULLMAN — Playing without its leading scorer, the Washington State men’s basketball team found the perfect foil in Mississippi Valley State.
Playing in their second game in as many days, the Delta Devils (3-8) allowed WSU a healthy head start and were loathe to threaten the lead, finally succumbing to the Cougars, 85-48.
Coach Ken Bone didn’t learn until the pregame shoot around that DaVonte Lacy, who leads the Cougars in scoring with 18.9 points per game, was in the hospital receiving treatment for appendicitis. It must have been a relief, then, when the Cougars shot out to a 21-3 lead over MVSU in the game’s opening 12 minutes.
“I thought our attention to detail on defense was really good, our energy was good,” Bone said. “So basically, our defense was good, but they just played last night in Seattle. And they came out and looked fatigued.”
MVSU stabilized enough to score well into the double digits, but the second half was hardly better for the Delta Devils. The Cougars made 19 of 23 shots after halftime, with three of the four misses coming from beyond the 3-point arc.
The game was the final tuneup for WSU (7-5), which begins Pac-12 play on Thursday at No. 1 Arizona.
According to Bone, WSU did not try to take advantage of MVSU’s hectic travel schedule. Less than 24 hours before tipping off against the Cougars, the Delta Devils were wrapping up a fast-paced, 95-80 loss to Washington in Seattle.
“We didn’t press, we didn’t trap, we didn’t try to make the game more up-tempo,” Bone said. “We just wanted to get better and get through the game without DaVonte.”
It was without extra exertion, then, that the Cougars manhandled the Delta Devils in every physical aspect of the game.
WSU’s big men outclassed their opponents, holding a 44-30 edge in rebounds as the team outscored them 48-18 in the paint. The Cougars were responsible for every one of the seven blocked shots on Saturday.
“We knew they were kind of small, so we knew to just be ultra-aggressive on the glass,” D.J. Shelton said. “We did a good job of executing that.”
They were matched, however, in steals as each team collected 11. The Cougars turned the ball over against full-court pressing MVSU 18 times, but forced 19 turnovers against the Delta Devils, who are still searching for their second win against a Division-I opponent.
“We definitely look to push it in transition,” Royce Woolridge said. “And our defense really helped us do that.”
With Lacy out, the scoring duties fell to highly regarded freshman Que Johnson. The guard led all scorers with 19 points on 17 shots, thanks to a 5-of-11 night on 3-pointers.
While Johnson provided the sweet shooting, it was Woolridge and Shelton serving up the meat and potatoes. They combined for 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting, and Shelton led the way with 12 rebounds while Woolridge’s six assists were the most for either team.
“We definitely miss DaVonte, we hope that he gets better, we really missed him,” Woolridge said. “But I feel like Q and DJ and a lot of other players … we stepped up since he wasn’t there. So we hope the best for him and we really missed him.”
The team has been told that Lacy could be out anywhere from three days to two weeks. After the game, Bone went to the hospital to check in with the guard and figure out a timetable for Lacy’s return.