Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Cougs are 7-4 one month in After the abysmal year from the Washington State Cougars football program, there was an aura of optimism surrounding the upcoming basketball season. One month into the 2012-2013 campaign, the Cougars stand at 7-4. They have defeated Eastern Washington, Utah Valley, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Idaho, Portland, Fresno State and Jackson state respectively. Each victory was a matchup in which the Cougars were the favorite, so nothing to bat an eyelash at. However, the losses have been a little more surprising. Facing No.12 Kansas, the Cougars got absolutely trampled in a 78-41 defeat. There was hope for a closer margin, but the defeat was expected. Yet, in their other three losses, the combined margin of defeat was just five points, including a a buzzer-beating loss to No. 10 Gonzaga. (Damn Pangos) Brock Motum and D.J. Shelton after the Fresno State Game. (Photo Credit: US PRESSWIRE) The Cougars are currently 10th in the Pac-12—ahead of Washington and USC—but it is difficult to crown anyone before conference play. After a month, here are the individual performances that have stuck out thus far: Head of the Pack It is no surprise that senior Brock Motum has been the star of the team. Already awarded with a Pac-12 Player of the Week award, Brock Motum has picked up right where he left off last year. Eleven games in, Motum is averaging 20.4 points per game—second in the conference—along with 6.9 rebounds. In his last five games he is averaging 25.6 points, and shows no signs of slowing down. With only two games remaining before conference play, it seems Motum is finding his stride at the perfect time. Biggest Surprise The surprise of the season so far has been the emergence of senior Mike Ladd. The transfer from Fresno State struggled in his first season as a Cougar last year—mainly due to injury. He missed 11 games, and when he did play he had a cast on his wrist. This greatly affected his offensive ability, as he only averaged 5.4 points per game. This season, Mike Ladd has taken a much more prominent role in the offense, and his health has truly shown. He is averaging 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while dishing out 2.5 assists as well. These numbers aren’t jumping off of the page, but outside of Motum, the offense is very spread out. Ladd is third on the team in scoring, and his rebounding numbers mirror those of starting forward D.J. Shelton. If he can continue to improve offensively while cleaning up on the glass, Ladd will play a major role in the Cougars’ success. Room for Improvement The headline entering into the season was the Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge. The sophomore out of Phoenix came to the Cougars with high praise from head coach Ken Bone, and he was thought to be an immediate contributor on the court. Royce Woolridge must adjust to the point guard position. (Photo: WSU Athletic Communications) Unfortunately—due to the dismissal of Reggie Moore—Royce was forced into an unfamiliar position as point guard. Having played shooting guard for the majority of his basketball career, the transition has not been as smooth as anticipated. Royce Woolridge often plays timid with the ball, and the offense becomes stagnant as a result. On occasion he will show an impressive ability to get to the rack, but far less often than you would hope. His numbers aren’t anywhere near expected (7.7 points and 2.3 assists per game), and in his last outing he refrained from scoring a point in 26 minutes. For this team to be successful, Woolridge will need to grasp his role as point guard and attack the hoop on a more consistent basis. If he can grow in these areas, there is no telling how far his potential could carry him. Conclusion The season has been pretty predictable as of now, and the Cougars remain in the hunt regarding the tight gaps between Pac-12 teams. Motum is showing outstanding consistency, DaVonte Lacy is healthy and providing that second-scoring boost they so desperately need and Ladd is becoming a strong role player on both sides of the ball. With the team finding its identity right before conference play, they could very well make a splash in the Pac-12 race. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE COUGARS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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