Washington State senior Rosetta Adzasu, the Cougars starting point guard who suffered a concussion in practice on Thursday, was reduced to a spectator against the Badgers Friday night. She probably enjoyed what she saw.
The Washington State offense did not miss a beat Friday, shooting 58 percent from the field and lighting up the Kohl Center in a 69-51 win over Wisconsin. It was a game that looked like Washington State couldn’t miss, as the team received scoring contributions from nine of its players, four of whom recorded double figures.
Perhaps the entire night was summed up on a desperation long three-point heave by Washington State guard Tia Presley at the shot clock buzzer in the final minute of the game.
For Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey, it was a shooting performance she had never seen from her old conference foe during her time at Stanford.
“They were hot and we had some lapses defensively,” Kelsey said. “I know that one shot by Presley she put up she just threw it up and it went in. So that’s the kind of night they were having. I’ve never seen them that hot because I’ve scouted them for four years.”
Although the Cougars struggled to begin the game, falling behind 12-4 early, the iron eventually became very kind.
Washington State ran a combination of flare entries and double staggered screens for their backcourt all night, as the Cougar guards found themselves with separation to contributed 53 of the team’s 61 total points.
“Our offensive execution has not been good yet out of the gate,” Washington State head coach June Daugherty said. “But this is a very unselfish team that’s led by some very good seniors. I love the fact that our front line will sacrifice their bodies and set those flares and double staggers to get our shooters open. Our posts do a good job of making those guards have some free looks.”
While the Cougars were on fire offensively, the team transferred the heat to the defensive game as well. The Badgers struggled to find a good look against the suffocating pressure defense of the Cougars guards.
Struggling at times to find an open shot, the Wisconsin guards felt Washington State breathing down their neck all game, as the Cougars’ ball pressure frustrated the Badgers, forcing 15 turnovers and stealing the ball 11 times.
“We didn’t have our best pressure out there tonight just because of the concussion to Adzasu,” Daugherty said. “But I thought April Cook was solid, you’re not going to get past her. She’s one of the better athletes in the Pac-12. We’re long, we’re quick and athletic and we try to take advantage of that. We try to extend the passing lanes and make it tough to get it inside if the ball gets to the wing.”
While Wisconsin committed its lowest total turnover count of the season, the Badgers struggled to find a good look all night, as the Cougars defense routinely forced the shot clock down to 10 seconds or less.
“They’re very aggressive on defense,” sophomore Morgan Paige said. “They like to get up in the passing lanes and make you turn the ball over. It gets under your skin a little bit but you have to rely on your teammates to be open, make dribble entry passes and make adjustments in the offense. Sometimes we didn’t do that and sometimes we did a really good job with it.”
For Kelsey, the Badgers put themselves in a hole by not getting the ball across half-court in due time.
“We have to get in our offense faster,” Kelsey said. “If you notice when we get picked up full court and we get to our side, there’s like 18 seconds left. That’s a problem; if they pick up full court we try to give the guard a screen so we can initiate the offense, which was a problem tonight.
“We missed a lot of people who were open. Some folks were just wide open, either we couldn’t see them or we had our heads down. When we watch this tape they’re going to see that the back pass was there all night and we never took advantage of it. But they did. We finally started hitting that pass at the end, but it was too late.”