It was one of the more entertaining games of the season, if only because neither team seemed able to get stops on a consistent basis. Because of that, the game had an NBA feel, with first WSU making a run, then Cal. Who would have the last one? Ah, that would be the Bears. An 11-3 run to be precise. Over the final 2 minutes, 50 seconds. Read on.
• When Washington State coach Tony Bennett finally made it down to the basement of Haas Pavilion after his postgame radio interview, he seemed satisfied. Not with the defeat. No coach is ever satisfied with that. But with the effort. Bennett related he had challenged his team to play with passion and let the chips fall. The Cougars had, the chips fell into Cal's pot and so, Bennett said, "I can't change now." And that's what he told his team in the locker room.
But later, when things had quieted down, Bennett was willing to admit to his disappointment. The Cougars' lack of depth – in two games against the Bears the bench has scored a total of two points – had been the difference. After the starters – Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Taylor Rochestie, Nik Koprivica and Klay Thompson – had put together a dominating 8-minute stretch to open the game – WSU led 16-5 – Bennett had to go to his bench. And that bench was populated with one senior (Daven Harmeling) and three freshmen. It was those freshmen that let WSU down Saturday.
DeAngelo Casto brought energy, but made enough mental errors defensively, one coach related, to cost WSU eight points. From helping too much to attempting to block shots that were unblockable, thus yielding easy offensive rebounds, he didn't have his best game. Marcus Capers struggled trying to guard Patrick Christopher, leaving his feet on shot fakes and not staying within arms' reach on screens. Plus, the Bears just didn't guard him, leaving him free to shoot 15 footers they knew he wouldn't take. And Mike Harthun, who backed away from two very takeable charges, missed his only shot attempt, a 3-pointer from the corner that was a foot long. By now, it was hoped, the freshmen would be contributing more. While they were giving the starters some rest after the hot start, the Bears roared back, scoring 10 unanswered points before Bennett could get them out. The run reached 15 and the Cougars' early momentum was wasted.
• With rest at a premium, the starters ran out of gas, or in Forrest's case, hit the floor hard enough to knock himself out of the game. When legs were needed, the Bears had them, in large part because their big three of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson had been able to sit or, when playing extended stretches, been relieved of their toughest defensive duties by subs – for example, Jorge Gutierrez guarded Thompson at times even when Christopher was on the floor.
So WSU returns home with the two Oregon schools headed in. Must wins? For sure, if the Cougars want to play in one of the postseason tournaments. They have to have at least a .500 record, and, at 12-11, the edge is awful thin. Seven league games remain, and a 3-4 mark means a win in the Pac-10 tournament would be a must. Go 4-3 and even a first-round upset doesn't kill the chances.
• OK, enough of my ranting. Let's get to the links. You can find our unedited story on this blog post as well as the edited version here. Freelancer Howie Stalwick had this story in the News Tribune among other papers. And the Times' Bob Condotta, with the Dawgs playing today, covered the game as well. ... From the Bay Area, there's Jeff Faraudo had this story in local papers, while Rusty Simmons had his story in the Chronicle. ... Around the Pac-10, ASU defeated Oregon State in a defensive battle while red-hot Arizona shot down Oregon. The winless-in-conference Ducks could be dangerous Thursday night.
• That's it for this morning. With the late finish, we didn't have much time for postgame comment. We could be back in the afternoon after we peruse the tapes for any nuggets we might have missed. If there is more to pass along, we will. Till then …