|DiIorio transforms into shooter in nailbiter|
PULLMAN -- Will DiIorio transformed from a role-player known for taking charges to WSU's only proficient shooter in Saturday night's nailbiting loss to Washington at Beasley Coliseum.
The junior guard knocked down two crucial second-half threes en route to a career-best nine points. Given an opportunity to score while the Huskies focused their frontcourt on Brock Motum, DiIorio nearly helped WSU crawl back from a 17-point deficit in the Cougars' 68-63 loss to the Huskies.
Left open at the top of the key with the score knotted at 56 after a furious WSU comeback, DiIorio ignited the 7,711 in attendance by knocking down a wide-open three. Though the Cougars again failed to execute down the stretch, DiIorio's shooting provided the Cougars a chance to open conference play with a win against their cross-state rival.
DiIorio – despite media requests – didn't speak to reporters after the game. However, Brock Motum was happy to talk about the Cougars' newest marksman after the game.
"He's a good shooter and he proved that tonight," Motum said. "He does it at practice all the time. He doesn't shoot as many in games but the opportunity presented itself tonight and he hit them."
WSU shot a woeful 5-for-20 from behind the three-point line and just south of 37 percent for the game. The Cougars quickly fell behind 21-4 before DiIorio and Co. helped Ken Bone's outfit fight their way back from the enormous early deficit.
"That was great to see," said the WSU head coach after falling to 2-6 to the Huskies since coming to Pullman. "Will has developed over the last couple of years to become a decent shooter. The way he was being guarded he had the open shot so it was good to see him have the confidence to go ahead and shoot it."
Bone also said his reserve epitomizes the positive, selfless attitude shared by his 9-5 team.
"He's a very unselfish kid and he understands the three-point and he understands that he's not one of the better three-point shooters on the team so he doesn't look for it very often, but tonight because of the way they guarded him he had the open look."
DiIorio's contribution proved enormous on a night the Huskies limited Motum to 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Motum knocked down only one of five attempts from beyond the arc while UW's Desmond Simmons worked to constantly deny him at the high post. DaVonté Lacy also had a night he would like to soon forget, going just 3-for-11 from the floor while missing a potential game-tying three with eight seconds left in front of the WSU bench.
The Cougars haven't won a conference opener in Pullman since 1995. More disturbingly, teams who watch film of Saturday's loss will no doubt have a blueprint to limit a WSU offense that's struggled early in the season.
WSU couldn't respond in the final two minutes when UW's Scott Suggs hit two contested jumpers and a backbreaking fast-break lay in.
UW head coach Lorenzo Romar seemed to understand how to attempt to stop Motum.
"I don't know if you can take him out of his game but when guys score like he does they're thinking ‘I'm going to get mine,'" Romar said. "If he was going to run to the scorer's table it would have been an emphasis to deny him at the scorer's table."
- Despite the below average offensive output on Saturday, Motum has now scored in double figures every game this season.
- Mike Ladd quietly led WSU in scoring and assists. In fact, the Seattle product kept matters close in the first half with 10 points. He finished with 16 points, three assists and six rebounds. He also knocked down 7-of-10 from the line in 37 productive minutes.
- D.J. Shelton struggled mightily against a UW frontcourt anchored by Aziz N'Diaye. He nabbed eight rebounds but scored just two points while going a paltry 1-for-5 from the field. Shelton was also made unavailable after the game but Bone said he hopes for an improved Shelton when WSU heads to the Bay Area next week to take on Cal and Stanford.
- WSU outscored the Huskies 36-34 in the second half. However, Bone's outfit lost the rebounding battle 32-31 and turned the ball over 12 times.