COUGARS • UPDATED: 3 P.M.
Pac-10 play starts in less than a week. WSU will enter conference 8-4, which is exactly what we thought as we doped out the schedule before the season started. Read on for more thoughts and links.
• As we said in the intro, we penciled in WSU with four nonconference losses this season (and a 9-9 or 10-8 conference record, depending on how the freshmen developed during the preseason). Those four games – Pitt, Baylor, GU and yesterday at LSU – all appeared before the season began to be tough wins for a Cougar squad that would be relying heavily on at least three freshmen.
But losing is one thing. Losing because of what happened in the second half against GU and the final 9 minutes against LSU is another.
Those stretches – along with a short stretch late against Baylor – were not WSU basketball, or at least not WSU basketball as defined by Tony Bennett. When the Cougars lost to Pitt, they were in the game until the Panthers hit a couple late shots to get separation. Against Baylor, the Cougars had every opportunity to win, but the Bears made more plays down the stretch.
But the 29 minutes combined between the Gonzaga and LSU games? Those minutes were mystifying. In both, WSU played soft. Soft on the boards, soft on defense and, most glaringly, soft when making passes and shooting. Some of the turnovers Saturday came on passes thrown without confidence, lazy passes that the neighbor kid would have picked off.
And that's not how WSU usually plays. This is a group that needs to grow tougher, to enjoy the tight moments that come down the stretch in close games. Right now, most of the Cougars seem to be shying away from them, hesitant to make a decision and a key play. The hesitation causes fumbled rebounds, slow passes, stolen dribbles, short shots. There are four practices left before Pac-10 play starts. The toughness quotient needs to grow in that time or this group is in trouble.
• I mentioned in my story Taylor Rochestie was credited with two points that were actually scored by Klay Thompson. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I also made a mistake yesterday when I listed WSU with 19 turnovers. The Cougars were officially credited with 18. My bad. I fixed it on the on-line story.) My understanding is the scoring mistake was pointed out to LSU's official scorer at halftime, but he refused to change it. Just to let you know, I'm on a mission to get this corrected or, failing that, at least get someone in Baton Rouge to admit to the mistake. I really don't want to be bringing up these lost two points in three years as Thompson climbs the WSU career scoring ladder, but I will.
• UPDATE: Just heard from Jessica Schmick in the WSU Soprts Information office and the official tally was changed. Klay Thompson has been credited with the two points, giving him 14 for the game, and Taylor Rochestie has two less. This is the right decision.
• OK, now on to links, of which there are two. The first is from the News Tribune which, like us, cobbled together a story from different sources. The other is from the Advocate in Baton Rouge, whose story, of course, has a LSU bent. One football note: Skyline wide receiver Gino Simone, who committed to the Cougars in August, has seemingly reaffirmed his commitment. Stay tuned.
• That's it for this morning. I heard a rumor the ESPN2 announcers called Aron Baynes a lumberjack. Is that true? I was listening to the radio while watching the broadcast, so I didn't hear it. Let me know. We'll be back this week as events warrant. Till then …