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SUNDAY, JAN. 11, 2009, 9:29 A.M.

WSU one-point win, the day after


COUGARS

In the clear, somewhat sunny light of day, some thoughts about Washington State's victory last night over Stanford. And some links. Read on.
••••••••••

• Sorry to be the guy who snows on everyone's parade, but a one-point home win over a Stanford team that should finish in the bottom third of the Pac-10 doesn't hide the fact WSU is still a team struggling to score. The first half highlighted that. Just as the second half showed there is hope for the remainder of the conference season. But despite the 33 second-half points – a conference high for the Cougs – this is a team that's still needs offensive improvement.

How to get it? That's the question Tony Bennett has been tossing back and forth with his coaching staff for weeks. They've tweaked the offense, putting in more ball screens. They've changed Taylor Rochestie's role, running him off screens more and putting the ball in his hands late in the shot clock so he can bounce it and create. They've tinkered with the rotation. All have helped, if only incrementally. The biggest help would be a return to form of the their shooters.

As Stanford's Lawrence Hill said after the Cougars shot 20 percent in the first half, “WSU wasn’t shooting well; it wasn’t because of our defense.” Though that's a too fatalistic assessment of the Cardinal defense for my taste, it does have a ring of truth. Aron Baynes did not shoot well all weekend. Daven Harmeling hasn't in a month. Klay Thompson was 4 of 12 Saturday and 13 of 39 in conference play. Only Rochestie has shot well in conference (20 of 40) and that won't be enough the rest of the way. Someone or some two has to step up for WSU to reach its potential this season. The question is, who?

• Let's move on to the links. We have our story and freelancer Howie Stalwick's piece, which appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune and other West Side papers – along with the San Jose Mercury News. Plus, there's the Associated Press story that ran in the Seattle Times. Jake Curtis of the Chronicle, the only Bay Area beat writer to travel with the Cardinal, had this gamer. Around the conference, Cal survived Washington in triple overtime to take over the conference lead, Arizona State hammered Oregon and, with Oregon State coach Craig Robinson being ejected, Arizona breezed past OSU. One quote we might see sometime down the road from Robinson: "Ivy League officials are way better than those in this conference." Just kidding. Wonder if the three guys who worked the game - Mark Reischling, Bobby McRoy, Don McAllister - are in federal custody and headed for Cuba right now. Again, just kidding. That will have to wait until after Jan. 20.

• Let's switch gears, and sports, for a minute. The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta reported on his blog last night UW's football was talking with Oregon about playing that rivalry game on Thanksgiving in the fall. An interesting proposal that would give the Huskies a bye, a nationally televised game and mean the Apple Cup would have to move from Nov. 21 to Dec. 5. So last night's I sought out a WSU administrator who has knowledge of the schedule and asked him about it. Though the Cougars want a bye – the first draft of the conference schedule had WSU playing 12 consecutive weeks – he was adamant the Apple Cup would not be played on Dec. 5. That's too late. As far as he understood the most recent schedule from the league office, a schedule that has yet to be finalized, there is a good chance the Apple Cup will be moved to Nov. 28, Thanksgiving weekend. That would allow the conference to move the Oregon State game from Oct. 17 to Nov. 21. Not ideal, but it would give the Cougars a bye on Oct. 17. Still, this is preliminary, because this week's 14-week window – there were 15 weeks to work in last season – is making it tougher to iron out the conference slate. Another complicating factor: the Pac-10 is trying to get more and better games on ESPN. So the football schedule won't be finished until later this month.

• That's it for this morning. We'll be back tomorrow. Enjoy your Sunday.




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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