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WSU loses on a technical fall


COUGARS

I hope you had a chance to see this game. The Cougars were like Sisyphus, rolling the rock up the hill for 45 minutes, never getting the lead until the first overtime. But the rock rolled back over them in the form of a technical at the end of regulation (we explain it in the ensuing story) and Tajuan Porter’s long-range shooting in the extra periods. Anyhow, here’s our unedited story, though I wonder how many people are out there reading this. Have a safe New Year’s Eve.

••••••••••

• Here’s the story …

PULLMAN – Oregon’s Malcolm Armstead grabbed Klay Thompson’s miss with 6 seconds left in the second overtime, raced the length of the court, scored and was fouled with a half second on the clock, lifting the Ducks a wild 91-89 Pacific-10 Conference win Thursday.

As the 5,810 who made it to Beasley Coliseum on New Year’s Eve sat stunned, their thoughts may have immediately turned to a similar play at the end of the first overtime, when it looked like Washington State had grabbed the win.

It went like this.

After Tajuan Porter hit a 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left in the first extra period to tie the score at 78, Thompson received an inbounds pass, raced up court and found a sprinting DeAngelo Casto near the basket.

Casto, bruised and battered from battling Oregon’s Michael Dunigan for 45 minutes, gathered himself, spun and laid the ball over the rim for his 15th point.

As the ball fell through, Casto ran up court, sure the Cougars had rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to win 80-78. But his elation, and that of some of the WSU reserves who ran onto the court, was premature.

There was still .3 seconds remaining. A whistle blew. The officials huddled, called the coaches over, then went to the scorer’s table. An indirect bench technical was called, for WSU’s reserves being on the court.

Porter, Oregon’s lone senior in uniform, had a chance to tie. The lifetime 86 percent free-throw shooter did just that, hitting both and sending the game to another overtime.

“We (called) a technical foul for bench personnel running onto the court during a live ball, without being beckoned onto the court,” Mike Littlewood, the lead official, said afterward, going on to cite Rule 6, Section 1, article 4B, which states “The ball shall become live when… B. on a throw-in the ball is at the disposal of the thrower in and the official begins the throw-in count.”

Littlewood said that’s what happened.

“As soon as he grabs the ball, the ball is live,” Littlewood added, and WSU had too many players on the court.

“It’s a tough way to lose a game,” said WSU coach Ken Bone, picking his words carefully. “There’s not a whole lot we can do about it now.”

But Bone tried to do a lot when it occurred, arguing with Littlewood and his crew. And he argued voraciously after Armstead’s game-winning bucket 5 minutes later, when Oregon players entered the court.

The difference, Littlewood explained, was the foul made it a dead-ball situation.

“It’s one of those things that kind of take you heart out,” Casto said of the technical. “We just battled and battled for 40 minutes, then battled for another 5. … We were so excited. Point-3 left, there is really no way you can get a shot off. Then when that technical came, you kind of looked at your self and we had to go to the next (overtime).”

Despite the deflation, the Cougars (10-3 overall, 0-1 in Pac-10 play) had a chance to win, leading the second overtime 88-85 after Thompson’s 22-footer with 2:56 remaining.

But they had no answer for the 5-foot-7 Porter, who scored 18 of his 31 points after regulation, going 6 of 12 from the floor and 4 of 7 from beyond the arc in the 10 extra minutes alone.

He finished with 31 points, though the final four Oregon points came on Dunigan’s layup – the last of his 22 points – to tie it at 89 and on Armstead’s game-winner.

“For all of his basketball career he’s had to be a guy who gets after you and puts you on your heels because of the size,” Kent said of Porter. “He has to get you moving and freeze you.”

Porter did that much of the game with Reggie Moore trying to guard him, putting Moore in early foul trouble – he finally fouled out on Armstead’s game-winning play – helping to limit WSU’s second-leading scorer to 10 points.

In fact, the Ducks had all the Cougars on their heels early, breaking out to a 12-2 lead, extending the margin to 15 late in the first half, and still leading 52-39 with 11:30 left in regulation.

“We had nine days off and haven’t been in a rhythm of playing a game and I think it took us a while to pick it up,” Casto said. “We definitely didn’t come out with the fire we had in the second half.”

Then Thompson began to find the range. At that 11:30 mark, the nation’s third-leading scorer was 2 of 11 from the field and had yet to hit a 3-pointer. He still had 10 points, though, as he was 6 of 7 from the line. He finished with 33 points, hitting 19 of 21 free throws and 6 of 19 shots.

Thompson fed James Watson for a dunk, then scored six consecutive points after Xavier Thames’ 15-footer. The came on three free throws – Thompson was fouled three times on 3-point attempts – and his first long-range shot.

The 10-0 run put the Cougars in it, and they finally caught Oregon (9-4, 1-0) at 62 on a Moore drive with 2:52 remaining.

Porter answered with a long 3 at the 1:21 mark and Thompson re-tied it with three more free throws with just less than a minute left. When Dunigan, the 6-10 sophomore who finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, missed two free throws with 36.9 left, WSU had one more shot.

Moore took it as the clock was running down, but his 17-footer was short and overtime beckoned.

“We put ourselves in a position to win it, and that’s not easy when you’re down 15 playing the way we did early on,” said Bone, whose Cougars’ welcome Oregon State to Friel Court on Saturday. “We’ve got to keep our heads up and move on to the next game.”

•••

• That’s it for now. We’ll be back in the morning with some aspirin for your headache … I mean our next-day post. Until then …


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