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November 7, 2012

WSU bests Saint Martin's 62-50 in lone exhibition

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Washington State unofficially opened up the 2012-2013 basketball season tonight against Saint Martin's with a 62-50 win at Beasley Coliseum.  This was the only exhibition game ahead of the Cougars' season opener this Saturday against Eastern Washington.

At times, the Cougars played well but there were also lapses during the flow of the game where head coach Ken Bone wasn't pleased with the team's play.  For the Cougars sake, it was only an exhibition and they're still ironing out the kinks.

"What we wanted to get accomplished was executing our offense with more precision and just being crisp," Bone said when addressing the media after the game.  "And we didn't do a very good job of that."

The Cougars fell behind early behind a rash of threes from Saint Martin's but a Brock Motum three pointer tied the game at 11 midway through the first half.  The Cougars paced the way throughout the rest of the first half, eventually taking a 28-26 lead into halftime.

Motum, who led the Cougars with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, acknowledged that the Cougars didn't play their best and there is plenty of room for improvement moving forward.

"I think we started off a little slow and I think we played down to their level initially," Motum said when asked about his thoughts on the game.  "In the second half we picked it up and we didn't finish off the way the way we should have.  But, it's an exhibition game, the first game of the season and we've got a lot to learn still."

The Cougars certainly picked it up in the second half and, at one point, held a decisive 16-point lead with just over two minutes remaining.

Royce Woolridge, who had to sit out last year after transferring from Kansas, played well at point guard - a position of concern after the dismissal of senior Reggie Moore prior to the season.  Woolridge scored 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting in 30 minutes of action.  He also added a game-high three assists but, more importantly, the redshirt sophomore had zero turnovers on the night.

"I'm glad he had no turnovers," Bone said in reference to Woolridge's first game at Washington State.  "But again, it's his first game in a few years and he hardly played even at Kansas.  I just think it's going to take some time for him to get comfortable in that position."

The Cougars, however, struggled to rebound all night, as the Saints won the battle on the glass 30-to-28.  D.J. Shelton had a game-high nine rebounds while Mike Ladd added seven rebounds of his own, but the team realizes that it's a part of their game that needs to get better.

"Rebounding is something that we definitely need to improve on," Woolridge said.  "We got out-rebounded today and we've actually been talking about rebounding so that's something that we need to improve on a little bit."

Ladd had an impressive night in his first action as a key member of the new look Cougars.  The senior scored 12 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting performance in 27 minutes of play.

"I'm relieved," Ladd said of being able to finally play without injuries.  "It feels great being out there healthy and 100%.  It's way better than playing with a cast."

Regardless of the outcome, Saint Mary's played the Cougars extremely well and held the lead at various junctions throughout the game.  They shot the ball well from behind the arc, hitting 6 of 14 from deep, an area that the Cougars defense needs to focus on moving forward.

"They did shoot the three well," Bone said.  "I think Saint Martin's did a good job."

The Cougars didn't help themselves from the free throw line, connecting on just 12-of-19 from the charity stripe - a struggle that has plagued them dating back to last season.  As a team, Washington State was 24-of-44 (53.6%) from the field and 2-of-11 (18.2%) from three-point range.

DaVonte Lacy, one of two returning starters from last season, wasn't too involved on the offensive end, scoring just 3 points on 1-of-3 from the field.  The sophomore did lead the team in minutes played with 35 and recorded just one turnover.

Overall, it wasn't an eye-opening performance, by any means, but that's why the play these exhibition games - to dust off the cobwebs.

The Cougars will look to be sharper come Saturday when they take on the Eagles from Eastern Washington at 4:30 p.m. in their official season-opener.

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