Nothing like an upset of No. 14 in the nation to get the comment section lighting up again. The one that read “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” was especially insightful. Just kidding. I understand the letting-off-steam aspect of this interactive media. Anyhow, let’s move on to our usual next day post. Read on.
• Last Saturday before the USC game, I took a quick look at how the Cougars could put together a run at the NCAA Tournament – not if they would, but how it was possible – I mentioned they needed a signature win. I pointed to the ASU game in Pullman as their best shot for that. I was only off by about 1,500 miles. After putting together the upset on a night of Pac-10 upsets in Arizona, WSU now has to start rooting for ASU to get a couple of big wins down the stretch. And the Cougars have to keep winning themselves, of course. Enough of that, let’s move on to the links …
• We had our game story, though there is much more on our post from last night. Freelancer Howie Stalwick’s coverage ran in the Olympian among other West Side papers. The Associated Press story is in the Times and the Arizona Republic’s piece by Jeff Metcalfe is also available.
• From elsewhere around the conference on a Friday morning, coverage of the Huskies shocking lack of defense against the Wildcats can be found from Bob Condotta of the Times, Dan Raley in the P-I and Don Ruiz in the News Tribune. … From LA, UCLA had little trouble with Cal and USC survived against Stanford when Lawrence Hill’s game-winning shot went in and out. … The Oregonian’s Pac-10 blog wraps up the action.
• OK, that’s it for the hoops links. Before I get into more comments from coach Tony Bennett and others, I wanted to call your attention to a football post I put up early this morning. It’s about WSU’s recruiting and where it stands going into the last weekend. Now let’s get back to hoops. Bennett was understandably pleased with the win, which came in front of his friend, professional golfer Steve Stricker, who sat behind the Cougar bench near Laurel Bennett wearing his Wisconsin football hat. Stricker is playing in the FBR Open but, his day’s work done, he came by to cheer on, albeit quietly, his friend’s team.
Bennett on Thompson’s game and the Cougars’ offense: “There’s no substitute for making shots. I wish I could sit here and tell you (different), but you’ve got to bang some shots. But, I think the inside-outside attack did help us. … You have to stretch them and make some outside shots but you have to attack them, whether it’s off the pass into the low post, penetration, touch the high post, but you have to go inside. Aron did a nice job.”
On the win: “This team’s been close. We’re always so close and we can’t afford too many mistakes. The challenge before the game, I (told them) ‘I’m not worried about winning or losing this game. You’ve got to understand you are a possession-by-possession team.’ And I thought they tried to (play that way). Tried to be solid with it, not loose, and make them work.”
Why they put Casto on Harden with some 15 minutes left: “We just thought Harden was starting to get going and take over the game. We thought there were three or four guys (we had) that could at least match him: Daven (Harmeling) because of his size, perhaps Klay (Thompson), then Klay got in foul trouble, maybe Nik (Koprivica), but kind of our wild card was DeAngelo (Casto), because we used him a little bit against Sam Young in Newark vs. Pittsburgh, and you could see (he could do it). He’s so gifted with his slides and his physicalness, that I thought that was a significant part of the game, no question.” When asked later of Casto could take over the all-around defensive stopper role held the past couple years by Kyle Weaver, Bennett responded “defensively, ya, certainly in that matchup (tonight).”
On WSU’s defensive game plan: “One of the goals of ours was to keep (Harden) out of the lane. I don’t know how many times he got in – it’s almost impossible to keep him out all the time – but we said just make those other people beat us with shots over the top. … Don’t get lifted and make them shoot over us. That was important. Certainly, they missed some shots, they had good looks and didn’t knock them down.”
The freshmen growing up: “What I’ve noticed, we’re almost halfway through the Pac-10 season is your young kids, your freshmen usually become a little more consistent. Obviously, Klay tonight was more than just consistent, but they’re not as wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look, because they’ve played enough games. Marcus (Capers), though he didn’t play tonight, more experience, just a little more consistent. DeAngelo, a little more consistent. Certainly Klay. I thought he played a nice game against USC, nice second half against UCLA. So I’m seeing them put together 40 minutes and that’s important.”
Rochestie summarizing how WSU won: “There were a couple reasons why we had success tonight. Obviously Klay shooting the ball but having DeAngelo come in and really bother Harden with his length. I don’t think anybody really bothers Harden, he gets in the lane. But just to go in there and just to be a different kind of presence, a tall, long guy who makes them try to shoot from the outside, had a couple big blocked shots. That’s what we need, guys who come off the bench and just step up.”
Baynes on the free throw shooting: “That’s something coach has stressed this year all practices. We’ve got to knock down our free throws. It helps us out at the end of the game and it helps us out in a few games this year. It’s always nice to be able to go up to the line and knock them down. You’ve got to keep working at them. There was a lot of rim in some of them tonight.”
On Casto’s defense: “That was big. We all know Casto can do that. He has pure athletic ability and he’s a smart defender as well. He really gets in position and he makes it tough on guys. We can put a lot on him for getting us that win because he really came in and shut Harden down towards the end. He made everything hard for him.”
ASU’s Jamelle McMillan on how Thompson got so open: “Just (us) not executing the game plan. Not recognizing where he was on the floor.”
• That’s all I’ve got for this morning. We have to head down to Tucson to attend practice, talk with some players and put together a story for tomorrow. We’ll post the raw version tonight. Till then …