Sure, Brock Motum was again the Cougars' star – he was the game's leading scorer with 23 points and it was Motum's fourth consecutive game scoring 20-plus points. But WSU stilled trailed after Motum had done most of his damage, absent a complementing scoring threat until Ladd started driving to the hoop to begin in the second half.
As Ladd either scored or went to the line, that penetration also created space on the perimeter.
Beyond Ladd's 19 points – 14 of which came in the second half -- his biggest contribution won't show up in the box score.
When Ladd ran the point, Washington State's offense was at its smoothest. When other Cougar ball handlers took the reins against the opportunistic FSU defense, things got shaky.
LADD WASN'T LOOKING to score in the first half, he passed up some decent and took only three shots. He was also rested a decent amount over the game's first 20 minutes.
But with WSU trailing 25-24, Ken Bone's locker room adjustment was clear – keep Ladd on the floor and have him drive to the hoop.
Fresno State soon countered, closing things in the middle. So Ladd started shooting from outside. WSU took the lead back at 42-41 on a Ladd deuce. Tied at 45-all, Ladd hit the biggest bucket of the game, drilling a three-pointer to give the Cougs a lead they would not relinquish.
Ladd also threw up a prayer that was answered down the stretch -- falling to the ground after being fouled. Ladd missed the free throw but the Cougs retained possession and Motum drove the lane to put WSU up 54-48 and effectively put the game out of reach.
AS MUCH AS Ladd and Motum put up the points, the combination of finals week and a tough loss to Gonzaga on Wednesday looked to have taken a toll on the home team.
FSU missed a number of open shots with the Cougs slow to rotate defensively and their inside defense looking thin. Had Fresno State been a little sharper, particular in the first half, this one might have ended differently.
But it didn't. And the Cougs may have also found a reason to shift away from the point-guard-by-committee.