The Washington State men’s basketball team started Saturday’s game against Idaho State as cold as the surface they were playing on.
The Cougars struggled out of the gates, missing shots and turning the ball over while playing on a court laid on an ice rink.
But they overcame their cold start at the Toyota Center in Kennewick to cruise to a 74-39 victory.
“It was not only cold, it was freezing,” WSU’s DaVonté Lacy said.
Midway through the first half, Washington State trailed 8-6 and had committed five turnovers as the Bengals were giving them fits with a stout 1-1-3 zone defense.
But Mike Ladd and Brock Motum got the Cougars untracked, launching a 20-2 run to take a 26-10 lead with 4 minutes, 37 seconds left before the break.Ladd scored seven of his game-high 17 points during the surge, while Motum chipped in five points.
“My teammates found me and I got on the offensive boards,” said Ladd, who also pulled down nine rebounds in the game.
He had scored just five points in each of the last two games, but scored the first six of the game for the Cougars on Saturday.
“We go to whoever is on fire,” said Lacy, who is from Tacoma. “Mike played well today, so we went to him. We know our strengths. We know where our bread is buttered and that is where we are going to continue to get better.”
The game wrapped up the nonconference schedule for the Cougars, who open Pac-12 play next Saturday hosting Washington in Pullman.
Washington State’s offensive struggles against lowly Idaho State could be a bit of a concern going into league play, though coach Ken Bone is pleased overall with where his team is.
“If I was to put a letter grade on it, I would say B-plus,” he said. “It’s not exactly where we want to be, but I think we’ve made great strides in certain areas that could really help us out in Pac-12 play.”
One of those areas is on the defensive end.
While the Cougars struggled early on offense, their defense was stout. Washington State held Idaho State to 6-of-20 shooting in the first half, and 37.2-percent shooting for the game.
“Our defense played very good today, especially in the first half,” Motum said. “We’ve got to try and put two halves together every game. If we had played the same way defensively in the second half that we did in the first half that would’ve been 28 points and that would’ve been outstanding.
“But it’s still early in the season and we know the areas we need to improve on.”
The other area of concern for the Cougars coming in was spreading the ball around offensively, which they did fairly well Saturday — at least once they warmed up.
“I think just sharing the ball and being solid and playing more as a team,” Lacy said about what the team needs to improve on. “We did that well today. We need to continue to get better at that. We need everybody if we are going to win in Pac-12 play.”
Chris Hansen’s 12 points led Idaho State (1-10), which lost its fifth consecutive game. The Bengals are 0-3 against Pac-12 teams this season, losing to Utah and Oregon as well.
“We did frustrate them early, but we weren’t able to convert the frustrations into baskets,” Idaho State coach Bill Evans said. “Our big thing is we have a really hard time scoring and that puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”
Lacy finished with 16 points for the Cougars, while Dexter Drew-Kernich added five points and five rebounds. D.J. Shelton drew one of the biggest roars from the crowd, when he threw down a one-handed tomahawk dunk over a helpless defender in the second half.