That’s the word redshirt sophomore guard Royce Woolridge harped all week after the Cougars’ most recent victory against Oregon State.
“We’ve got to have poise if we want to win those close ones,” Woolridge said before Thursday’s matchup with Arizona State (17-4).
While Woolridge and the Cougars showed poise Thursday night in Beasley Coliseum, they ultimately fell in yet another nail biter to Arizona State 63-59 — the better team on this night.
The Cougars came out of the gate on fire as they jumped to a 13-4 lead early, capitalizing on a blistering start from beyond the arc in the first half. The Cougars converted on seven of 13 shooting from the three-point arc in the half.
As has been the norm in Pac-12 play, senior guard Mike Ladd got the Cougars going with 10 points in the first half, finishing with 14 points in the game. Woolridge led the Cougars with 16 points, all in the second half, followed by senior forward Brock Motum, who had 11 points on the night.
The Sun Devils were led by their superstar freshman guard, Jahii Carson, who killed the Cougars all night and finished with 25 points on the night.
As hot as the Cougars started, the Sun Devils couldn’t buy a shot early on. At the midway point through the first half, ASU was shooting only 12-percent on 2-16 shooting.
But, like the Cougars, the Sun Devils would eventually find their stroke as they would go on to drain six three-pointers of their own in the half, narrowing the Cougar lead to two points at the half at 28-26.
Carrick Felix's corner three-pointer put Arizona State on top 33-32. A sloppy stretch of basketball in the second half by the Cougars saw Arizona State take a 40-36 lead as Motum picked up three consecutive fouls in the process.
However, Woolridge would not let the game slip away, scoring 6-straight Cougar points as the Cougars regained a 46-43 advantage with 7:41 to play.
It was a back and forth affair from then on as the lead changed hands four times in the span of a couple minutes. But a barrage of Sun Devil shots, led by Carson, put ASU on top 58-51 with just over three minutes remaining.
Yet again, Woolridge infused a healthy does of poise into the Cougars, bringing the team back with consecutive buckets to tie the game at 58.
“I liked the way Royce was very aggressive and made some real positive plays down the stretch,” Head Coach Ken Bone said postgame. “I think the last two games, he’s played with confidence and made plays down the stretch.”
But in a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better,” Carson answered the bell, scoring the fatal running layup with 11.3 seconds remaining to seal the 63-58 victory.
“What it comes down to is just getting stops,” Woolridge said after the game. “Down the stretch, they got a lot of offensive rebounds.”
The Cougars will stay home to take on No. 8 Arizona on Saturday at 7 p.m. The first 6,000 fans in attendance will receive a free whiteout t-shirt as part of “Coaches vs. Cancer Night.” The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Network and will air on the IMG Cougar Radio Network.