The WSU men’s basketball team lost their sixth game in seven tries Saturday night, and it wasn’t even close. After losing a closely contested game against USC on Thursday, the Cougars lost 76-62 to UCLA on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
The Cougars made a trio of three-pointers in the first three minutes to take an early 9-7 lead, but that lead quickly melted away as UCLA built a 26-16 lead behind the stellar play of freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad.
Senior forward Brock Motum, who led the team with 17 points, said the Cougars simply failed to execute on the defensive end.
“It started because we didn’t get stops,” Motum said. “If we get stops in a row that’s going to translate into offense and we can be a little more fluid because we can get out and run in transition. But when we’ve got to rebound the ball out of the net, take it out and then get into our set, it just takes so much longer and it kills your momentum.”
The Bruins capitalized on the poor defensive effort early and often, building a 24-39 lead at the half.
Senior guard Mike Ladd, who scored only five points on 2-9 shooting, pointed to turnovers as a key reason for the Cougars’ first half struggles. WSU ended the game with a season-high 19 turnovers.
“We turned the ball over way too much,” Ladd said. “We had three turnovers at the end of the first half. We played at their speed, you know. We weren’t executing as well the first half. I feel like we came out in the second half and executed well. Still, we couldn’t get stops when we needed them. Every time we scored, they scored.”
Though the Cougars responded with renewed offensive energy in the second half, the Bruins would not back down. Muhammad led the way with 17 points as four Bruins scored in double figures – an offensive barrage that shot down any hopes of a Cougar comeback.
The Bruins shot 62-percent (31-50) from the field – the highest percentage allowed by WSU since Dec. 29 last season against Oregon.
“They just made shots. Every time I looked up they were hitting a shot,” Ladd said. “Every time they shot I felt like it was going in, just dropping.”
Head Coach Ken Bone echoed Ladd’s sentiments saying, “Speaking of execution, they sliced us up and they made shots. Their shooting was outstanding.”
The Cougars will lick their wounds as they come home to face Oregon State on Wednesday at 7 p.m.