Looking at the Pac-10 standings this morning, you can see why WSU coach Tony Bennett challenged his team before yesterday’s USC game and why he emphasized its importance. Besides Washington and its six wins being on top, which is strange enough, there are three teams with five wins, UCLA, Cal and ASU. Following them is USC, which has four wins after coming from behind to defeat the Cougars. Tied with three victories are WSU, Stanford and, yes, Oregon State. If five Pac-10 teams really have a chance at NCAA play, then the Cougars really shot themselves in the paw the last 6 minutes Saturday. Instead of being in the top half of the conference, they are in a pack of also-rans with just five of their last 12 conference games at home. Of course, with a 1-4 home record, maybe that’s a good thing. Read on for more game coverage.
• Lot’s of links from Saturday’s Pac-10 games, though, as usual, we’ll start in Pullman. … We have our game story that ran in today’s S-R, plus the album version which ran here. Tacoma and other West Side papers rans freelancer Howie Stalwick’s story. And the LA Times’ Chris Foster, someone I’ve known since we both were young, had his game story as well. Freelancer Dan Thompson had this gamer for the Orange County Register. … From elsewhere in the conference, UW took over sole possession of first place with a convincing 86-75 win over UCLA, probably clinching an NCAA berth for the first time in a while. You can read about the win in the Seattle Times, the News Tribune and the P-I. … Oregon State swept the Bay Area weekend, shutting down Stanford’s offense and winning 77-62. … Cal saved a split by keeping Oregon winless. … And Arizona rallied to edge Houston in overtime. Speaking of the Wildcats, Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen thinks Rick Pitino is a good fit. Interesting, but speculative.
• Getting back to the WSU game, we have some more thoughts from Bennett, USC coach Tim Floyd and Taylor Rochestie on the Trojan win.
Bennett on Caleb Forrest’s game: “Everything he was throwing in Thursday, weren’t going in today, if you look at the stats.”
On his team’s effort: “They certainly fought, but just didn’t have enough to finish it out.”
On USC’s effort: “They did a good job and they did it without their leading scorer, one of their best players. They really took it at us and drew fouls, which was frustrating.”
On the last few minutes:> “When you get in a game like that, one possession here or there is all the difference in the world.”
On Taj Gibson’s play: “He’s quick, he’s a heck of a player. A couple of questionable ones where we thought were in position up and down. But he took it at us.”
On Rochestie’s final few minutes: “I said we’re going to put the ball in his hands late in the game to finish it and he’s certainly done a heck of a job. He had a couple tough turnovers. It’s hard for us to overcome those things.”
On Klay Thompson’s two big shots late: “It was good to see him make some, especially that big shot. He hit the 3 to put us up three. Just rose up and stroked it.”
And summing it up: “A couple turnovers, a couple offensive rebounds, end of story.”
Floyd on winning in Pullman: “We’ve had a tough run over here. We haven’t been able to win at this place, and nobody in our league does a better job than Tony (Bennett). We were very fortunate to get out with a win. They guard ya. Nobody likes to play people that can defend at home. And that’s what this league has become.”
On how well his team played on offense: “We didn’t get frustrated and shoot it on one pass. We were willing to play to the end of the possession if we needed to, and go drive and try to break them down and get fouled.”
Rochestie on USC’s changing defenses and if that affected WSU’s offense: “Statistically a lot. I think we got open looks, we just didn’t make shots.”
On the season right now: “Every time we show some progress, show some potential, like the second half against UCLA, we think we have it all together. Then we come out, struggle to score, struggle to shoot, struggle to keep them off the boards, struggle to get a rebound on a free throw at a big time in the game. Just little letdowns that can’t happen.”
• As a special added bonus this morning, we have some football news. Nick Daschel at Buster Sports has some thoughts on next year in the Pac-10. And the News Tribune did its annual Northwest Nuggets recruiting survey. WSU did quite well. Though the Cougars only attracted one (Gino Simone) of the paper’s six Nuggets, they have commitments from seven of the honorable mention players, by far the most of any school. The paper also ran some stories, one on the Huskies’ woes and another on the earlier start to recruiting, reaching to younger and younger players.
• That’s it for this morning and today. We’ll be back if more news breaks. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. Till then …