The Cougars had their opportunities, but they couldn't get stops when they had to.
EUGENE, Ore. — His team needed a stop, and at the other end of the court, a good five feet out on the floor Washington State coach Ken Bone, his knees bent, his hands up, almost was playing the possession with his players.
The Cougars trailed by three and were contesting every Oregon pass as the shot clock dwindled. But at the end of the clock, as the Ducks had been doing much of this Saturday afternoon, Garrett Sim sprung free behind the three-point line, caught the pass from E.J. Singler and knocked down a heart-piercing trey that put Oregon ahead 70-64 with 2:39 to go.
“I don’t want to say that took the wind out of our sail because we kept battling,” Bone said. “But it ended up being a huge three. He had a lot of time to set up and shoot that thing, too. I was trying to help, but it was the same old defense I had in high school and college and everywhere else.”
That possession defined WSU’s 78-69 loss to Oregon. The Cougars hung close. They shot 50 percent. They committed only 10 turnovers.
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They had their opportunities, but they couldn’t get stops when they had to. And the Ducks did what they do. They drained shots inside the arc and outside it.
After making 64 percent of their shots in a Thursday win over Washington, when Oregon practically looked like a Final Four team, the Ducks (18-7, 9-4 and a game back of first-place California in the Pac-12 race) shot 61 percent from the field in the first half and made 11 of 20 three-point attempts for the game.
Despite the loss, the Cougars (13-12, 5-8) are playing their best basketball of the year. They’ve finally adjusted to the loss of shooting guard Faisal Aden (torn ACL on Jan. 28) and are getting help from a healthy Mike Ladd, who has twice been sidelined for five-game stretches because of a torn ligament in his right thumb.
The Cougars got their first conference road win on Thursday at Oregon State and Bone said this was their best trip of the season.
“We showed that we can compete with two good teams,” said Bone. “And we did it on the road. We’ve had to make some adjustments having Faisal gone. I think we’re adjusting to that and finding out own identity without him. Hopefully we’re continuing to get better. I feel like we are.
“We did a lot of good things today. That’s what we showed the guys in the locker room. Our rebounding was decent. We shared the ball. Turnovers have been an issue, but we only turned it over 10 times. But Oregon lit it up. From everywhere.”
Ladd scored 13 points in 25 minutes, including the layin that cut Oregon’s lead to 67-64 with 3:12 to go.
“He really helped us last week against the L.A. schools,” Bone said. “He’s been giving us a good lift off the bench. We really need that extra body out there competing. He can compete physically with these guys.”
Brock Motum led the Cougars with 17 points. Ladd made 6 of his 8 attempts. Oregon’s Singler scored 23.
“I think we’re getting better every time we step on the court,” said Ladd. “We’re becoming more and more of a team.”
Percentages: FG .500, FT .636. Three-point goals: 8-19, .421 (Lodwick 2-4, Lacy 2-4, Moore 2-7, Motum 1-2, Ladd 1-2). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 3 (Shelton 2, Moore). Turnovers: 10 (Motum 2, Capers 2, Lodwick 2, Moore 2, Lacy, Ladd). Steals: 6 (Capers 3, Moore, Lacy, Ladd).
Percentages: FG .553, FT .833. Three-point goals: 11-20, .550 (Singler 4-6, Sim 4-7, Joseph 2-5, Emory 1-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 3 (Woods 2, Jacob). Turnovers: 11 (Sim 3, Joseph 3, Woods 2, Emory, Singler, Loyd). Steals: 3 (Ashaolu, Loyd, Jacob).
Attendance: 10,071. Officials: Ken Ditty, Chris Rastatter, Deron White.