Washington State played well in spurts Monday night. Eastern Washington played hard all night long. And the two combined to keep the nonconference battle between two schools separated by about 75 miles interesting until the end. On the link we have some notes and the unedited version of our game story. Read on.
• Right off, I want to say I wish I had more from the Eastern side of things. But with just one person, I couldn’t be in two interview areas at once. I talked quickly with Mark Dunn, who came off the bench to hit 7 of 9 shots, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, to lead Eastern with a career-high 17 points. “It hurts a lot,” he said. “Especially being on the road against a good team, a Pac-10 team. Being down (15) with 10 minutes to go and getting back within one point. That was just a good shot by Thompson.” … That shot, a 3-pointer with 42.1 seconds left, was the dagger that killed EWU’s upset chances – and the focus of the first part of our story below. … Thompson also had nine points from the free throw line, though he wasn’t happy with his shooting (he missed five) afterward. “I thought we could have played much better,” he said. “We might have been a little lackadaisical at the beginning of the first half but we all missed some free throws tonight that I thought we should have made.” The Cougars shot 62.5 from the line, hitting 20 of 32. Eastern shot much better (76.9 percent) but had just 13 attempts, making 10. … Freshman Glen Dean, who Bone said signed with Portland State, matched up with WSU freshman Reggie Moore much of the night and finished with 11 points, though he had a game-high four turnovers. “Good player,” Bone said of Dean. “I though those two went head-to-head and both of them did a nice job tonight.” … One thing Bone was not happy about was where the Cougars initiated their offense (both teams were 21 of 50 from the floor, 42 percent). The Eastern pressure forced them away from the basket and contributed to the offensive malaise. But Bone said the problem is one with the way his team practices. “It was good that we played against a team that played as hard as they did,” Bone said. “That’s what we talked about in the locker room. We are not used to it because we don’t practice like we want to, as far as the staff wants the kids to. We need to (practice) with more energy so we are prepared to play against teams like this.” So what will they be doing the next couple days before the Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne Mastadons come in Thursday? “We need to execute better, in the sense we’re getting the ball in an area where we can operate,” Bone said. “Too many times they forced us to set up our offense to close to midcourt.”
• Here’s the story …
PULLMAN – Klay Thompson wasn’t having his best night.
Washington State University’s sophomore guard missed his first six shots. He powered his way to the free-throw line 14 times, but missed five of those. He had twice as many turnovers as assists.
But when he needed to, and WSU needed him to, Thompson came through, coming off a DeAngelo Casto screen with 42.1 seconds left to bury a 22-footer and bury Eastern Washington’s comeback hopes Monday night.
The last of Thompson’s game-high 24 points helped WSU overcome a career-high 17 points from reserve Mark Dunn and the Eagles, 67-61, before 5,767 at Beasley Coliseum.
“It didn’t surprise me, at least, that he hit that last 3,” said WSU coach Ken Bone of Thompson’s shot, which came after Eastern had whittled down a 15-point WSU lead to one on Brandon Moore’s layin with 1:04 remaining.
Bone said the Cougars (2-0) didn’t run a set play for Thompson, but did want their leading scorer to get the ball in the area he did, the left wing just in front of the WSU bench.
“I was just in rhythm and it felt good when it came out of my hand,” Thompson said.
Thanks to Casto’s screen, Thompson was clear of any Eagle defenders, and he found nothing but net.
“DeAngelo, when he wants, can set great screens,” Bone said. “He was focused and understood we wanted to get Klay the ball in that area.”
Too often down the stretch the Cougars were stagnant, mirroring a game-opening 11 minutes that saw Eastern build a eight-point lead at 17-9.
“There are going to be times when we are clicking on all cylinders, and looking pretty good,” Bone said, “and there are going to be other times when we are just disorganized because we really are. We don’t have a lot of stuff in and what we do have in, we haven’t had a lot of reps.”
The Eagles (0-2 after two six-point defeats) trailed 50-35 with a little less than 12 minutes left. Over the next 5:17, WSU missed seven shots and five of eight free throws.
When Benny Valentine scored his first two points of the game with 6:47 left, EWU had cut the lead to nine. And then the Eagles started hitting their 3-pointers.
They hit four of their next five – including two by the 6-foot-8 Dunn – slowly cutting into the Cougar lead, getting two within two for the first time on Dunn’s 22-footer with 1:58 left.
“I’ve been struggling to hit my shot the last couple games,” said the senior, who played 35 minutes because starter Mark Brunell was in-and-out with a sore left ankle. “Tonight it was going in and it actually helped us down the stretch.”
After Thompson hit two free throws – he’s had 23 attempts in two games after having 31 all last season – Moore, who finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds, hit a free throw and a lay-in to pull EWU within one.
But after Thompson’s 3-pointer, Moore was called for traveling in the lane as Thompson rotated over to help, and Reggie Moore sealed the win with two free throws – part of the freshman’s 15 points – with 16.6 seconds left.
Though Thompson, Moore and Casto (16 points) supplied the offense, one of WSU’s biggest contributors was Marcus Capers, who finished with one point.
Capers was assigned the task of containing Valentine, who had 20 points off the bench in the Eagles opener.
“Marcus once again had a great presence on the defensive end,” Bone said.
Valentine missed his first six shots, finally hitting a 3-pointer with 4:35 remaining and finished with five points.
“They told us prior to the game he was capable of going for 30 points,” Capers said. “I felt like that was a challenge. Towards the end of the game, it was just that grit. He wasn’t going to out play me. I felt like I had to lock him down to win.”
• That’s all for now. We’ll be back in the morning. Until then …