Nearly ten minutes into the first half, Mike Ladd looked like he might defeat Oregon State single handedly Saturday afternoon.
The senior guard scored the Cougars’ first 11 points and 15 of the team’s first 17 points, overall, before finishing with a career-high 23 points on the game. At one point in the first half, Ladd had matched the Beavers’ total score as the Cougars led 17-15.
Ladd’s blazing start eventually ignited a Cougar offense desperate for a spark after losing five of its first six games in conference play. Ladd and the Cougars would not let that streak continue on Saturday, knocking off the Beavers 71-68 in Corvallis, Ore.
“I get put in certain situations, and I make the most out of those types of situations,” Ladd said in an interview. “It was a slow start for some guys, shooting-wise, and I felt like I should be more aggressive and attack. And that’s what I did.”
The Cougars’ first road win in five tries this season didn’t come easy, however. Redshirt sophomore guard Royce Woolridge said last week, it’s going to be a battle going down there. Woolridge and the Cougars got just that on Saturday as both teams entered the contest just 1-5 in Pac-12 play — both looking to resuscitate losing seasons.
Despite Ladd’s 17 first-half points, the Cougars trailed the Beavers 33-29 at the half. But the Cougars quickly erased that deficit in the second half, thanks in part to the reemergence of senior forward Brock Motum who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds after scoring only 4 points in the first half.
After trailing with 10 minutes left in the game, Motum drained a step-back three-pointer to put the Cougars on top 54-51. Despite the Beavers’ best efforts, the Cougars would not relinquish the lead again.
While the Cougars have typically failed to finish close games this season — losing four times by five points or less — they bucked that trend on Saturday. Woolridge said after the game, the win came down to poise.
“We’ve been talking about poise this whole time,” said Woolridge, who scored all of his 9 points in the second half. “So I felt like it was my time to step up and show some poise and some leadership, because Mike had been doing so well.”
Leading 64-62 with less than two minutes to play, Woolridge slashed through the lane and threw up an acrobatic layup, then drained four consecutive free throws to seal the game.
Poise at its prime.
The Cougars come back home for a two-game set starting Thursday night against Arizona State University. Motum and the rest of the Cougars will certainly hope Saturday’s poise makes the trip with them.
“Hopefully we can get the ball rolling now and this will turn into a couple wins and winning turns into a habit rather than losing those closer games,"Motum said.