Cougars finally win a close game

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Royce Woolridge walked out of Gill Coliseum with a hefty bandage over his left eye, the result of a gash opened by Oregon State forward Eric Moreland and one of his bothersome arms.

Stitches would be required, Woolridge said. He was smiling.

That’s because Washington State began repairing something else here on Saturday afternoon: its reputation as a squanderer of second-half leads and a pushover on the road.

The Cougars were neither this time, finally winning a close game thanks in part to Woolridge’s clutch play down the stretch of a 71-68 victory before a healthy gathering of 6,592 mostly perturbed spectators.

And it’s fitting that it was this building in which WSU overcame its end-of-game woes. The Cougars have won their last four games at Gill, two of them last season and one in 2011.

They’ve now beaten the Beavers 12 of the last 15 times they’ve played, and have won five out of the last six matchups despite none of those being played in Pullman.

And, as coach Ken Bone said afterward, “when you’re 1-5 coming in, you need it.”

They needed senior guard Mike Ladd’s career-high 23 points, 17 of them scored in the first half when a barrage of Ladd jumpers, put-backs and layups was the only thing keeping WSU in the game.

“I get put in certain situations, and I make the most out of those type of situations,” said Ladd, who made 10 of his 11 field-goal attempts. “It was a slow start for some guys, shooting-wise, and I felt like I should be more aggressive and attack. And that’s what I did.”

They needed senior forward Brock Motum to get going in the second half, when he scored 16 of his 20 points and keyed a 10-0 run that ultimately decided the game. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.

They needed Woolridge, whose driving layup and runner on back-to-back possessions inside the final 2 minutes kept WSU ahead by four points, then the two free throws he made to put the Cougars ahead by three points with 7.8 seconds left.