Four teams tied at the top at 6-4. Nine teams within two games of first. All 10 within two games in the loss column. The Pac-10 is an enigma wrapped in a riddle this season. The new motto: Get hot, win a regular season title. For no one is that more true right now than Washington State. This is a team that has morphed into one that depends on its shooting to win. Thursday night that formula failed. We have thoughts, notes, links and quotes if you want to read on.
• Washington State: We covered the shooting woes pretty well in our story and on the blog last night so I'm pretty darn disinclined to go into more depth on that. ... It's also the main emphasis of freelancer Howie Stalwick's story in the News Tribune and other papers. ... Doug Haller's story in the Arizona Republic revolved around Herb Sendek winning his first game in Pullman. ... And that's about it for coverage we can link, except for this analysis at CougCenter. ... Before we get into the participants' thoughts, I have some of my own to share. ... I felt sorry for two guys last night: Randy Burkhart and Micheal Irving. Those two officials were doing their job exactly as it's supposed to be done, calling enough fouls to keep the game under control, but not so many to take away from the players' performance. But by doing their job right, they highlighted what I see as the Pac-10's biggest problem, one that I've seen four times now in 10 conference games. Two officials with a light touch and an appropriate whistle isn't enough. It takes three. And when the third member of the crew is not on the same page, it destroys the continuity of the game – and takes the players' experience down a level. Last night, the third member of the crew, Randy McCall, called the game in a completely different manner than his two partners. I tried to keep count after the first few minutes and I had McCall calling nearly two-thirds of the fouls in the first half. Contact that would be ignored by two guys was whistled by the third. And that's a travesty. Let me be clear: While I don't believe it played a role in the final score – though the three calls on Marcus Capers in that 3-second span did have a huge effect on the game – I do believe such disconnect between members of the officiating crew brings the level of play down a notch and plays a huge role in player – and coach – discontent. An example for you. On one end Derek Glasser set a screen at the top of the key. Nik Koprivica hit him pretty hard trying to get through it as Glasser moved to shield his shooter. Instead of calling a moving screen or a foul on Koprivica, Burkhart made the right decision and let it go. Glasser complained. So on the other end Trent Lockett tried to fight through a Marcus Capers screen that was as borderline as Glasser's. This time a whistle blew. McCall's whistle. And Glasser immediately went to Burkhart and started screaming. He had a point. So did the coaches. In the first half I saw something I haven't seen in years. With 1:12 left before halftime, WSU coach Ken Bone called time out and didn't enter the WSU huddle. Instead, he walked toward midcourt, got McCall's attention, called him over and started chewing on him, baseball-manager style. Bone stood slightly bent, still towering over the official, white board held behind his back. The one-sided conversation lasted 15 seconds or so. One might have thought it would have drawn a technical, but after the way ASU coach Herb Sendek had exploded twice earlier, that would have been a travesty. As it is, until there is more continuity between crews in the conference – and I will say the second half was better in that regard, though the group leaned toward more calls instead of going with the appropriate Burkhart-Irving first-half model – the games will continue to be choppy, ugly affairs. ... OK, on to other things. After ASU had put together a 12-0 first half run and a 13-0 halftime-straddling run, building a 19-point lead in the process, WSU extended its defense. The Cougars started switching all screen between 1 through 4 (not post screens) and jumping the passing lanes. There's a reward available here (Klay Thompson's career-high six steals being one, ASU's 17 turnovers another) but there's also a big risk as well. This group of Cougars really isn't athletic enough to play this way and there isn't enough depth available to play it too long. WSU was forced to do both. The result: cutting the lead to as little as four points with more than 8 minutes left, but no energy to sustain it down the stretch. As the defensive rotations got slower and slower, ASU was able to handle the pressure and pull away. ... One player who supplied WSU energy off the bench was Michael Harthun. Though the sophomore guard only took one shot in his 11 minutes, he did defend better at times. And his real contribution came on the glass, where he flew around and either grabbed a rebound (three times) or kept it alive so a teammate could get it. This might have been Harthun's most impressive game. ... Lost in WSU's 3 of 18 3-point shooting night was Moore's one attempt from beyond the arc. The freshman took just two against UW and one last night. Now he doesn't need to get the 10 he had against UCLA, but he's a good enough shooter (38 percent coming in) to get off five or six.
On to the quotes ...
• Bone on the shooting woes: "There's one area of the game I don't think (you can) get on guys about and that's shooting. If a guy doesn't hustle, doesn't screen out, doesn't sprint back on defense, doesn't share the ball, that's one thing. But guys, when they shoot, they try to make it. They're really trying hard to make shots. When you make 3 out 10 from the free-throw line and 1 out of 10 from the 3-point line in the first half, it's hard to beat anybody. And I feel like we just dug a hole for ourselves by shooting so poor in the first half."
• Bone on the comeback: "I'm proud of the fact that they battled back and got within four. Unfortunately, Arizona State executed well the next two possessions and before you knew it, it was up to nine again."
• Bone on the Derek Glasser's effect on the outcome: "Glasser had a great game. Glasser was shooting, I believe, under 20 percent from the 3-point line, maybe on the year but for sure in league, I remember reading that stat. And tonight he comes out and hits three out of three. So ya, you play the percentages and we played the percentages on that and he got us."
• Bone on Glasser's big shot: "We would have like Reggie to get out there or DeAngelo to get a hand up and not give him a total free look. But in all fairness we told them we wanted to back off and not allow Glasser to drive and not create shots for other guys. If we're going to give up something, we're going to give up him shooting the 3 because of the percentages he's shot. But tonight he goes out and has his best 3-point shooting night of the season."
• Bone on Marcus Capers offense: "We had him be a little more of a screener tonight. With the screens, he was slipping and getting inside better than he usually does when he's roaming around the 3-point line. He had a better chance to get near the rim on shots or on drives or anything. He played closer to the basket tonight than he usually does."
• Bone on the risk/reward of the defense: "Sometimes we took risks that did not work and other times they did."
• Capers on Glasser's game: "Coming into the game he had missed his last 11 shots, so we were told to back up off him. Him knocking down the few shots he did, everybody was shocked. That's what seniors do, you know? In situations like that, they come out of slumps when they need to. That's what he did, stepped up."
• Sendek on Klay Thompson: "I thought in the first half, especially, we had some fool's gold, because he had some looks he's going to make on most occasions. I just have so much respect for him as a player. I had a chance to work with him at USA basketball and he is just so good and has my complete and total respect."
• Around the Pac-10: Look at the standings. Can you pick a conference champion? I can't. Heck, it could Oregon State. ... Speaking of the Beavers, they host Oregon on Saturday and coach Craig Robinson believes the Ducks may have an edge. ... Oregon shows they will fight to the end. ... UW continued to be near-perfect at home. ... Arizona got next-to-nothing from some key players in the 81-75 defeat ... Landry Fields' career-high 35 points wasn't enough for Stanford at UCLA. ... The 77-73 win puts the Bruins atop the conference standings – with three others. ... Talk about runs. USC scored 25 consecutive points and still had to survive Jerome Randle's game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. ... Randle had 29 points in the 66-63 defeat. ... By the way, Kevin O'Neill changed his mind and reinstated fired manager Stan Holt.
• Before we go we have a few football links. We've got ESPN.com's Ted Miller's assessment of WSU's recruiting. We also have our story on Bruiser leaving WSU and the Arizona Republic story on the same thing. ... That's it for this morning. We'll be back as events warrant. Until then ...