Washington State Athletics

Assistant coach Ben Johnson leaves Washington State program

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Washington State head coach Ken Bone has a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff, as it was announced by the school on Tuesday that assistant coach Ben Johnson has decided to leave the program. Johnson spent the last nine seasons in Pullman, beginning in 2004 as an assistant under then-head coach Dick Bennett.

With the change in regimes it’s rare that an assistant would hang around as long as Johnson did, going from the elder Bennett to his son Tony (who’s now the head coach at Virginia) to coach Bone. Johnson was a teammate of Tony Bennett’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“I want to thank everyone at Washington State University for their genuine care and support over the past nine seasons,” Johnson said in the release.  “My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Cougar Nation and the University community.  I want to wish Coach Bone, our coaching staff and players the best of luck and continued success.”

One of Johnson’s most important recruits in recent years was Brock Motum, who graduated after playing four seasons in Pullman this past spring. Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring in each of his last two seasons, and he left the school ranked fifth on the all-time scoring list. Motum’s a native of Australia, and Johnson’s connections in the country (he played and coach at the professional level in Australia) helped in the recruiting process.

“We’re sorry to see Ben leave the program,” coach Bone stated in the release. “He has contributed a tremendous amount not only during my four years here at WSU, but also over the past nine seasons. We wish Ben nothing but the best!”

While the Cougars do have to account for Motum’s departure they’ve got some talented players returning to the Palouse, most notably guards DaVontè Lacy and Royce Woolridge. Also of note are the arrivals of two point guards, junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn and freshman Ike Ireogbu, and redshirt freshman Que Johnson has the potential to be one of the best athletes in the Pac-12 after sitting out last season as a partial qualifier.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: