PULLMAN — Washington State coach Ken Bone isn’t about to panic despite his team having a 2-7 conference record through the first half of the Pacific-12 season.
“I’d feel different if we were getting blown out,” Bone said after No. 8 Arizona beat the Cougars 79-65 on Saturday. “Our guys show up every game and bust their tails.”
This was their worst conference loss, Bone noted, and he doesn’t plan to make any personnel changes.
“We’re going to keep trying to get better,” Bone said. “If we were getting blown out, I would have thought, `Man, we’ve got to change things.”‘
Washington State fell behind 18-9 early in the game, and couldn’t make up the deficit, in part because guard Mike Ladd picked up three early fouls and spent most of the first half on the bench.
“We hung in there and hung in there and hung in there against a really good team,” Bone said.
Solomon Hill scored 18 points in the first half as Arizona built a lead it never lost, and defeated Washington State for the fifth consecutive time.
“I hit my first two shots and every time I shot, I thought I was going to make it,” Hill said. “So when I got space, I let it go. Even when I missed, it felt good.”
Mark Lyons, who had three fouls in the first half, led Arizona with 20 points. Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski added 10 each for Arizona (19-2, 7-2 Pac-12), which swept the Washington schools on the road.
Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy each scored 15 points to lead Washington State (11-11, 2-7), which has lost four of its past five games. D.J. Shelton added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Ladd, WSU’s second best offensive weapon, picked up his second foul three minutes into the game and went to the bench. Arizona responded with an 11-2 run for an 18-9 lead.
“That really hurt us in the first half,” Bone said of Ladd.
Arizona’s Kevin Parrom was ejected with 10:42 left in the first for a flagrant foul, after throwing an elbow at Lacy.
Arizona coach Sean Miller said he was very disappointed in Parrom. But he needed to watch film of the foul before deciding on discipline for the player.
“If in fact he committed the foul, he embarrassed himself, our basketball program and his family,” Miller said. “Kevin is a senior and he knows better.”
Ten seconds after Parrom was ejected, Ladd was called for an intentional foul and Arizona cashed that in for two free throws by Ashley. When they received the ensuing possession, Hill nailed his third 3-pointer of the game for a 26-12 Arizona lead.
Motum’s basket brought WSU within 26-18. Then, Hill hit his fourth and fifth 3-pointers of the first half as Arizona went on an 11-2 run for a 37-20 lead.
Washington State cut Arizona’s lead to 11 points with a pair of 3-pointers. But Hill launched a buzzer beater from half court and it banked in for a 40-26 Arizona lead at halftime.
Arizona shot just 43 percent in the first half, but Washington State made just eight of 22 (36 percent) shots in the first half, and also had eight turnovers.
Washington State found its shooting touch early in the second half, but Ashley made three quick baskets to keep Arizona ahead 50-36. Then WSU went cold from the floor again and Arizona pulled away to a 57-38 lead with 11:54 left.
Motum’s basket launched an 11-3 WSU run that brought the Cougars within 60-49. Shelton’s 3-pointer cut the Arizona lead to 10 at 64-54 with 4 minutes left.
But Lyons sank a 3-pointer and a layup as Arizona pulled to a 71-56 lead, and Washington State was done.
“It was a good win, but it was not a good defensive performance,” Lyons said. “It wasn’t the amount of points they scored, it was how they scored.
“They scored too easily off pick-and-rolls, and we were worried too much about Motum and not the other players.”
But Miller was less critical.
“To be able to move forward and get a win says a lot about our team,” Miller said. “It says a lot about Solomon Hill. I believe he is one of the best players in college basketball.”
Hill attempted just two shots in the second half, missing both, as Washington State switched its focus to him.
“We paid a lot more attention to him,” Bone said.
Arizona leads the series 56-16. Meanwhile, Washington State has lost to all four ranked opponents it has played this season.