After losing three straight games on the road over Thanksgiving break, the WSU Cougar men’s basketball team gave a strong second-half effort to win 66-38 over the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions on Saturday.
Senior forward Brock Motum and redshirt sophomore Royce Woolridge each finished with 14 points for the Cougars, while redshirt junior forward D.J. Shelton added seven points and seven rebounds. Woolridge’s set a new career-high with his 14 points, surpassing his previous personal record of 11, which he set at Pepperdine on Nov. 16.
WSU also started a streak of six games at home with the win against the Golden Lions, who entered the game with a 1-3 record.
The Cougars struggled to control the basketball early, turning the ball over eight times in the first half alone. The team finished the game with 13 total turnovers.
Scoring was scarce in the first half as the scoreboard read 23-16 after the first 20 minutes of play. Motum had seven points on three-of-six shooting, while the Golden Lions shot poorly from the field, making only 23.1 percent of their field goals in the first half.
Redshirt sophomore guard Dexter Kernich-Drew, who hit two of his seven three-pointers in the first half, led the Cougars at the halfway mark with 10 points. He scored none in the second half.
The meeting in the locker room between halves changed something in the Cougars, though. They went on an 18-0 run over a span of about eight minutes after the break, which allowed them to take a substantial lead that would carry them for the rest of the game.
The three games prior to the matchup against Arkansas-Pine Bluff told a different story. The Cougars lost 58-56 in overtime to Pepperdine University on Nov. 16, committing 20 turnovers in the game including four in the final stretch of regulation.
Redshirt senior Mike Ladd had a double-double in the game, scoring ten points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
The Cougars then traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to play against No. 12 Kansas in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, getting blown out in the game 78-41. The Jayhawks were led by senior guard Travis Releford, who had 17 points.
Motum contributed 14 points and seven rebounds, but it was not enough to beat the ranked Jayhawks.
In the final game of the road trip, the Texas A&M Aggies defeated the Cougars 55-54. Kernich-Drew had 16 points on 60 percent shooting and Motum added 15, but it wasn’t enough to get the victory in a game that was close until the final buzzer.
The Cougars’ next game is against the University of Idaho on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum.