PULLMAN – Buried this week beneath an avalanche of textbooks and lecture notes, Washington State's men's basketball team didn't figure to look its best against Jackson State on Thursday.
It's finals week here. WSU coach Ken Bone saw the academic pressure wearing on his players in practice. And once the game started, so did the 2,686 at Beasley Coliseum, where the Cougars wheezed their way to a 52-41 victory over the winless Tigers.
Bone acknowledged his team's 19 turnovers. And its 3-for-19 effort from 3-point range. And then he took the blame, suggesting those woeful numbers were his own doing.
"I think our guys are really tired. They're very tired from this week. It's draining," Bone said. "It's my fault that we scheduled the game this week. It's my fault the way we played. It's not like our practices have been great, either. We got exposed tonight because of the fatigue factor."
Jackson State (0-7), then, must be about to collapse. This was the Tigers' second of four games in seven days. And they might have made this one even more interesting if their shooting had only been poor. Instead, it was atrocious.
Consider that JSU made its final two field-goal attempts in garbage time, and still only made 13 of its 57 attempts from the field, producing a final field-goal percentage of 22.8.
Five of those makes were from 3-point range. On 24 attempts.
"I liked our defense," Bone said. "I thought our ball-handling was really, really bad, and our shooting was bad. Whatever we needed to do when the ball was in our hands was not very good."
But, as Bone noted, the Cougars allowed only 20 points that weren't the product of their own turnovers. Jackson State went without a field goal for a nearly eight-minute stretch in the second half, during which WSU built its lead to 50-37 thanks to an 18-3 run.
Senior forward Brock Motum had 12 of the Cougars' points in that span, and finished with a game-high 27. Bone said he didn't want to play Motum as much as he did – 38 minutes – but WSU wasn't able to pull away until late.
WSU (7-4) never really did establish any rhythm offensively. DaVonte Lacy was the only Cougars player to make a 3-pointer (he had three of them on eight tries), though he was also pulled from the game twice after forcing ill-advised passes.
The shots were there, Bone said. They just didn't make them.
"I'll bet out of the 19 3-point attempts we shot, at least two-thirds, and maybe even 14 or 15 of those shots were wide open shots," he said.
"I had a feeling it was going to be like that," Motum said of the lethargic performance. "But we still tried our best to come out as hard as we could. But I think it was inevitable … it's really tough to get up for games just because a lot of guys are really focused on school."
Bone said he didn't want to schedule a game during finals week, but also didn't want the Cougars to go 11 days without a game. So when he found out Jackson State was traveling to the West Coast for games against Saint Mary's, Seattle University and Washington, he arranged for the Tigers to make a stop in Pullman, too.
"I know how busy the guys have been academically," Bone said. "We're not a professional basketball team. This is not the only thing these guys do. It was totally expected, at least from me.
"We're not bad. We'll get better."