Washington State mounted a remarkable comeback Wednesday night in the Pac-12 basketball tournament against Washington, coming from 19 behind in the second half, and 15 in the last eight minutes or so.
Then the Huskies’ Desmond Simmons scored inside for a 64-62 lead, and on WSU’s final possession, Brock Motum stood at the right wing, defended by a player perhaps seven inches shorter, Andrew Andrews. And Motum essentially flung himself at Andrews, trying to draw a foul that would have been worth three shots.
For a lot of WSU fans, who had to have mouths agape at the unlikely comeback, the Motum attempt hit them like the old Peggy Lee tune:
Is that all there is?
Motum had an excellent night with 28 points, and a stellar career at Washington State. But he’s been around long enough to know that you have to earn a foul with a couple of seconds left. Officials aren’t likely to whistle something discretionary, and that’s what Andrews’ defense against Motum appeared to me.
So why not drive the ball and try to get the tie? Perhaps Motum was cognizant that the Cougars weren’t yet in the bonus with regard to fouls, so maybe he feared that Andrews would hack him early when he wasn’t shooting.
If that’s the case, then simply triggering a true three over a much shorter defender would have been much the better choice. A cutesy attempt to try to draw a foul with the game on the line? That was a really strange option.
It was the third weird bit of strategy or game management by the Cougars in their last four games against Washington, all losses. This one might have prevented them from bookending their improbable football victory in November’s Apple Cup, when they came back from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
A year ago in Pullman, WSU coach Ken Bone brought Patrick Simon in cold off the bench to shoot a three-pointer with seconds left. Simon, who had played little in preceding games, shot an air ball.
In the Pullman game two months ago, Bone opted for an unusual foul strategy in the waning moments that didn’t work. WSU was behind by a point with 41 seconds left and had committed only three fouls. The Cougars quickly fouled three times, and then another one –purposeful — sent Andrews to the foul line with 23 seconds left. He was a 71-percent foul shooter at the time, he made two, and Washington won.
The other option would have been simply to defend that Washington possession and take the chance on stopping the Huskies and not allowing an offensive rebound. Bone defended that decision by saying that the Cougars had failed repeatedly to stop the Huskies down the stretch, and added, “We didn’t want to get into a situation where all of a sudden, there’s eight or 10 or 12 seconds left in the game, and we still have three fouls on us.”
While the Huskies move on to face Oregon Thursday night, the Cougars are done. Bone, 26-46 in his four seasons in Pullman, is hoping the same isn’t true of his regime there. WSU, limited all season with point guard problems after the dismissal of Reggie Moore, went 13-19 and tied for last in the Pac-12 with Oregon State.