The Cougars will travel to Pittsburgh to play game two of the best-of-three championship series in the College Basketball Invitational.
After winning game one by a 67-66 score, the Cougs will have two chances to grab the series-clinching win, although both games will be played at Pittsburgh.
Head Coach Ken Bone said Monday’s victory was important, especially before travelling to a place where they have never played before.
“It is very important, especially when it’s on your home court knowing that you have to go back there and play at least one or two games on their home court — a place we’ve never been,” Bone said. “It was a great win.”
WSU was without leading scorer Brock Motum in the first game after he suffered a sprained ankle against Oregon State in the semi-finals, and after Monday nights game Bone said his junior power forward has a “slim chance” of being ready for Wednesday’s contest.
Bone said other players will need to continue to step up if Motum, who averages 18.1 points per game this season, is unable to go in game two.
“Brock is really missed, it would almost be like losing Klay last year,” Bone said. “Brock has really been a solid part of our offense all season long and then to now adjust at the very end we’re asking other guys to do some things that have been a little bit uncharacteristic during the course of the season.”
The Cougs got a lift from senior Abe Lodwick on Monday as “Lod City” stroked four of five of his three-point attempts en route to leading the Cougs with 16 points.
Nonetheless, Bone said after Monday’s game the Cougs will need to be more aggressive on the glass in order to limit Pittsburgh’s second-chance opportunities.
“They had 13 offensive boards to our eight, that’s the area that bothered me,” Bone said. “It’s hard, they’re one of the top teams in the nation in the last few years on offensive rebounding. They’re very difficult to keep off the glass.”
Furthermore, the Cougs will need to do a better job containing Pitt’s Tray Woodall and J.J. Moore.
Both Woodall and Moore scored 16 points for the Panthers, who made 10 of 20 three-point attempts as a team.
After Monday’s game, Bone said the Cougs must protect the perimeter better if they want to be successful moving forward.
“They lit us up, 10 for 20 from the three on the night,” Bone said. “They’re shooting the ball really well, which makes it hard for us to guard them because they’re so big and strong when they drive it and they post up. Now they’re able to attack us in a lot of different ways.”
The Cougars will tip with the Panthers at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.