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In season-low scoring output, No. 22 WSU bows out of Pac-12 Tournament with semifinal loss to Colorado

Mar. 16—LAS VEGAS — On the walk to T-Mobile Arena, the site of his Washington State team's Pac-12 Tournament semifinal against Colorado Friday night, Kyle Smith realized something: He forgot his glasses. He had just wrapped up a short TV interview, previewing the Cougars' last hurdle to their first tournament title game appearance , when he understood what it meant.

"This play card is useless," he quipped.

Smith is farsighted, which means he has trouble seeing things closer to his eyes. He might not have been able to see the sheet of notes he keeps in hand during games, but he had a better view of the court, where No. 22 WSU bowed out of the tournament with a 58-52 loss to Colorado.

The Cougars lost because their offense never got going. They committed 19 turnovers, which the Buffaloes turned into 16 points, and they shot 42% for the game. For most of the game, WSU struggled to defend the paint, where third-seeded Colorado powered its way to 34 points, which changed the complexion of the game.

In its lowest scoring output of the season, second-seeded Washington State (24-9) got 13 points from forward Isaac Jones, 11 from wing Jaylen Wells and 10 from guard Myles Rice — but little else. Senior wing Andrej Jakimovski hardly looked like himself, nursing a shoulder injury that surely limited him in a four-point outing, and the Cougs got nearly nothing on offense out of centers Oscar Cluff and Rueben Chinyelu, who combined for six points.

"We don't turn it over much, but their pressure bothered us," Smith said. "We were able to battle back, took the lead in the second half. Just too many turnovers. Didn't shoot the ball well enough to win."

Still, Washington State had chances. On two occasions in the second half, Rice had the ball with a chance to draw within two on fast breaks, and turned it over twice. On one, his behind-the-back pass was intercepted. On the other, a Colorado player poked it away from behind. Moments later, he missed a wing 3-pointer. With a 0-for-5 showing beyond the arc Friday — including a meaningless heave at the buzzer — Rice has missed his last 23 3-point attempts.

"Went behind the back in real transition — just go lay it in. Don't worry about that stuff," Smith said of Rice, who is shooting 27% on 3s this season. "But it's hard for me to be too critical of the guy, being a freshman, first-year guy. Getting a lot of attention — earned. He's an all-league player in his first year at this level. It's pretty amazing."

Colorado made WSU pay. After Rice's miss, CU guard J'Vonne Hadley got past Jakimovski for a layup plus the foul, helping the Buffaloes push their lead to 46-42. That lead was hardly insurmountable — Jones tipped in a Rice miss to cut the deficit to two, and he tied the game at 46-all with a floater over CU forward Eddie Lampkin — but it was a sequence that typified the Cougs' inability to string together the kinds of plays they needed to win.

It came down to the wire. Jones used a floater to hand WSU its first lead (50-49) since midway through the first half, only for Colorado to retake it with two free throws on the other end. Seconds later, Rice had nowhere to go with the ball and threw it away, leading to a bucket from Hadley, who handed the Buffaloes a 53-50 lead with 2:13 left, prompting a timeout from Smith.

After WSU guard Kymany Houinsou helped the Cougars draw within one with a layup, things went downhill for WSU. Colorado guard Luke O'Brien posted his first points of the game, a driving floater, good for a 55-52 lead. The Cougs followed with a stale offensive trip that ended when Wells stepped out of bounds, their 18th turnover of the night.

But Washington State retained a chance to win. On the other end, Colorado turned it over. But Wells couldn't connect on a 3-pointer, and WSU had to foul to stop the clock.

Colorado guard KJ Simpson, who totaled 16 points, missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving WSU an opportunity to tie the game. Colorado fouled Wells, although coach Tad Boyle said fouling up three isn't his style.

"Wells is such a good shooter, I didn't want to see one go in," he said.

Wells also missed the front end of a 1-and-1, handing it back to the Buffaloes, who put the game out of reach with a Lampkin free throw.

That matchup was critical in the first half. Lampkin totaled just nine points and six rebounds, but at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, he was hard to corral underneath. He scored three of his four field goals becore halftime. He picked up his third foul early in the second half, leading to a 6-minute absence in which the Cougars drew within five. But Smith felt WSU played Lampkin well from that point on — especially considering he couldn't be as physical with three fouls.

"So Isaac started going at him, and we did some good things there," Smith said. "Rueben really got on the glass. He was awesome. Had some turnover issues."

Washington State remains a lock for the NCAA Tournament. The only question involves the Cougars' seeding. As of Friday morning, most national projections saw WSU earning a No. 6 or 7 seed, which likely wouldn't be good enough to land at the Spokane site. That projection might take a hit in the days to come.

That much will be settled during the tournament selection show, set for 3 p.m. Sunday.

Perhaps more concerning for WSU: Did Colorado lay out a blueprint for other teams to beat WSU? Or did the Cougars just suffer a bad offensive night ?

They looked far better the day prior, in a 79-62 quarterfinal win over Stanford, but that game followed WSU's loss to Washington in last week's regular-season finale. In that one, the Cougs made just 4 of 24 3-pointers and committed another 12 turnovers, the same kind of sluggish offensive showing that plagued them here in Vegas.

"It was their defense, their pressure," Smith said. "We had trouble getting the ball across the floor. They were denying. At their place, we were able to reverse through our posts in the middle of the floor. We struggled. Kymany helped us. He threw a high-low to Isaac. He got Jaylen a corner 3. He made some nice post moves that kind of got us going scoring-wise.

"But up until then, it was a struggle. They're quick, they're long, they're good, they're well-coached. It was just hard to get a shot without turning it over. I can live with getting hard shots, but giving them the ball is tough."

Another issue facing WSU: How will Jakimovski fare? In Thursday's game, he hit three 3-pointers for 13 points. After that game, he said, "I feel way better, and you can see it out there on the court," referencing the shoulder injury he suffered Feb. 29 against USC.

If he felt better, he didn't show it on Friday. He missed three layups in a 1-for-7 shooting night, his only make coming on a 3-pointer early in the second half. Jakimovski had six rebounds, a reminder that he can still supply valuable defense, but his shot is wavering. His team isn't the same under those circumstances.

WSU got a week of rest between its regular-season finale and Thursday's game. The Cougars might hope another stretch of days off will help Jakimovski recover — and for that matter, their offensive game as a whole.