It’s hard to say how much of Saturday night’s win over Arizona was a result of better WSU play and how much of it can be attributed to the basketball truism that matchups are crucial. Make no mistake. The Cougars played one of their most complete games of the season. But they also seem to have Arizona’s number, with their defense strengths taking away or severely limiting UA’s best offensive weapons and the WSU offense a tough stop for Arizona’s man defense. Read on for more.
• Washington State: We’re going to say its 70-30, with the 30 tilted toward the matchup. WSU did play well, real well, and that’s why it won by 18. The Cougars were focused, they played with heart, they were the aggressor. That adds up to a win. A big win. Now to the links. … You can find my game story here. … John Blanchette’s column examines the importance of the game in the Cougars’ season and how they responded. … Freelancer Howie Stalwick’s game story was in the Kitsap Sun and other papers. … From the Arizona Daily Star, here is Bruce Pascoe’s gamer and game notes from his blog. … OK, that’s it. So let’s get to some more thoughts. … Klay Thompson hit one 3-pointer – he took just three and, for only the second time this season, didn’t lead WSU in overall shots taken; DeAngelo Casto did that with 13 to Thompson’s 11 – and how he got the open look is worth relating. With 8:46 remaining and WSU leading by eight, Xavier Thames dribbled through the key, only to bounce the ball off his foot. As the ball rolled along the floor, seemingly destined for out-of-bounds and a turnover, Thames dove, tipped the ball back toward the court and into the hands of Brock Motum. The freshman didn’t hesitate, flicking the ball 10 feet to his left to a wide-open Thompson. He didn’t hesitate either, rising up and nailing a 3-pointer. … Three things happened there and we’ll examine each, starting with Thames hustle. “I didn’t want to turn it over in a crucial situation,” Thames said. “I just had to dive for that ball. I didn’t want it to go out of bounds.” It wasn’t the only time a Cougar dove for a ball Saturday night. It happened time and again, illustrating the urgent nature in which they played the game. Take for example Michael Harthun, whose parents were in attendance. Late in the first half, as Arizona looked destined to score and cut WSU’s lead to four, he stepped in front of Nic Wise and took a charge with 4.7 seconds left, keeping the momentum in WSU’s locker room. … Motum got a chance to play and play early due to Abe Lodwick’s illness (Motum said Abe was suffering from a case of strep throat) and Nik Koprivica’s early foul trouble. Motum came on less than 6 minutes into the game, but really made his presence felt late in the first half. In two possessions he attacked the basket and was fouled – he converted both free throws, part of WSU’s big advantage at the foul line – before cutting back door on the baseline, taking in a Thompson pass and dunking. Thompson said Motum moves well without the ball, which is easy to see in practice, and that he’s a big target, which is easy to see all the time. Motum may be the most offensive savvy of the WSU freshmen, though because of his limited minutes – he’s got to get better on the defensive end to play more consistently – it’s been hard to see in game. It wasn’t last night. … And the 3-pointer from Thompson? It showed his willingness to shoot when open, something that didn’t happen much as Arizona was more Kly-centric than any team WSU’s played. When he wasn’t, Thompson was willing to play the facilitator, as his game-high four assists shows. Though coach Ken Bone wants him to shoot more, he couldn’t have too unpleased with his total game. … Let’s get back to those free throws. WSU shot 28, hitting 23, or 82.1 percent. UA shot 13, made 10 (76.9 percent) and then didn’t complain afterward. “The free throw differential was really the story line of the game and they earned their trips to the foul line,” UA coach Sean Miller said. WSU was the more aggressive team, and that usually earns you free throws. … One last note – and link. The WSU women won a Pac-10 game for the first time this season. You can read how they did it in this Arizona Republic story.
• Now to the quotebook …
Bone on the focus: “That was one of the keys to the game, that we’ve got to stay locked in for 40 minutes, every possession. If we can do that we’ll be a better team.”
Bone on the effort: “The one guy we can always depend on to show great energy and effort is DeAngelo. We need other guys to follow his lead in that area. … Our whole team was excited about the fact that Mike Harthun took the charge late in the first half, with like 4 seconds left. We’ve been working on that and talking about that too, and Mike stepped in there and took a charge at a time when we needed him to.”
Bone on the urgency: “That’s the last thing we talked about before we left the locker room, that there needs to be a sense of urgency. I didn’t bring up because we had lost three-in-a-row, but we needed to have a sense of urgency again and that goes back to we need to play to the best of our capabilities every possession.”
Casto on the accountability: “If somebody else wasn’t getting the job done, you had a guy on the bench who was willing to go out and get it done.”
Miller on the outcome: “Sometimes you have to admit as a coach when you get outperformed. Washington State deserves a lot of credit. I thought we got outperformed, outcoached and outprepared. It’s tough to admit it but I have to give Washington State great credit. I’m not going to stand here and say our guys didn’t try. They beat us and they did it with the way they do things. DeAngelo Casto hurt us both games.”
Wise on WSU’s play: “They just came out more aggressive than us with their back to the wall and not wanting to lose. … It was more them than us. They were more aggressive than us. They wanted it more.”
Derrick Williams on Casto: “We tried to keep him off the glass but he just killed us on rebounds.”
• Around the Pac-10: Oh those Huskies. They are dominate at home as ASU found out. Next week: another chance to prove they can win on the road. … It’s been 17 years since Oregon State has swept Oregon. The Beavers were dominate Saturday as Oregon couldn’t handle OSU’s 1-3-1. … Did the loss ensure Ernie Kent’s future? … Cal loses at USC, then turns around an pounds UCLA, snapping a six-game losing streak to the Bruins, who have struggled to win at home. … When USC defends like it did against Stanford, it doesn’t matter where the Trojans play. Only Landry Fields (27 points) was consistently able to score for the Cardinal.
• That’s all for this morning. We’ll be back as events warrant. Until then …