It's the day after a tough loss. Which means, I'm sure, it was a tough night to fall asleep for those connected to the Washington State basketball team. But it's on to Cal for a FSN-televised 1 p.m. game Saturday. Before we turn our eyes there, however, we have some thoughts – and links – about last night's loss. Read on.
• Washington State: Last night, after the game, I promised you some thoughts on the outcome. This morning, before we do anything else, we'll deliver. And, after reading comments posted after the game last night here and other places, I'm not sure a lot of you are going to like what I have to say. Blaming this loss on coaching is missing the point. That would be clearer if you had been able to see it. This wasn't a situation in which a team with a big lead was told to slow it down, milk the clock, play not-to-lose. Quite the contrary. Sure, WSU coach Ken Bone wanted the Cougars to be patient offensively – all game long – and with good reason. Stanford isn't a very good defensive team. Good shots, easy looks, open lanes, they all would present themselves if WSU took its time. And those opportunities were there in both halves. But as the game tightened up, so did the Cougars. DeAngelo Casto said it perfectly in the hallway near the locker room after the game: "The offense we were running, I mean, I don't think the offense changed, we changed as a team. We tried to just shoot (jumpers) a lot." Not get the ball inside to Casto, where he had an advantage over anyone Stanford put on him. Not look to move the ball quickly early in the shot clock, taking advantage of the Cardinal's slow rotation. Not make the easy pass to the open teammate, but instead try to thread a needle that couldn't be threaded. In too many instances, despite repeated time outs and substitutions aimed at correcting those things, the offense stalled and settled, leading to long jumpers that weren't falling. As Nik Koprivica put it, the Cougars stopped looked for the open lane, stopped moving the ball liked they had earlier. They started trying to be the guy, not a teammate. And that carried over onto the defensive side of the ball. ... After Stanford struggled in the first half with WSU's combination of man, soft full-court zone pressure and an aggressive half-court matchup, the Cardinal made some adjustments, most of them mental. They got more aggressive. They attacked with the bounce, attacked off quick cuts, attacked the glass. And WSU's defense reverted to recent I've-got-to-stop-my-guy form. Too often defenders lost track of the ball. Too often help off penetration was too late. Too often ball screens led to easy baskets. The last hoop, the game-winner, was the whole second-half defensive effort in an 8-second span. We're not going into it here in depth, because it was the main element of our story, but the mental mistake was symptomatic of the breakdowns that occurred throughout the half. ... An aside: Klay Thompson was a man after the game, waiting around to talk with us, not ducking his responsibility, or the responsibility for the last play. Though Ken Bone described the play, he didn't call Thompson out, not naming anyone. But of course I saw what happened and had to ask Thompson. He immediately owned it, answering quickly when I asked him about what he was supposed to do. "Switch," he said. What happened, I asked? "I didn't," he continued. I wondered if he got caught on up on the screen, so I asked. No excuses. He admitted the crux of the matter. "I just had a bad lapse at the worst part of the game." That is how a person should handle a mistake. No matter what comes out of the game, that was a stand-up act by Thompson and all too rare. ... Now back to our narrative. When WSU needed a stop down the stretch, it rarely got it. And when the Cougars did force a mistake – after having 11 first-half turnovers and shooting 33 percent, Stanford had just six turnovers and shot 63 percent in the second – they seemed to turn it over themselves. One killer stands out with about 3 minutes left when WSU had an advantage on a break and made a ill-advised pass that Landry Fields got his foot on and Stanford recovered. By the way, if you are looking for another reason why WSU's offense slowed in the second half, look at the turnovers. In the first 20 minutes, the Cougars scored 18 points off the Stanford mistakes. In the second, just four. ... You're probably about through with my thoughts, and rightly so. Let's move on to some more quotes, though a lot of what we were able to gather last night was in the story. But before we get there, the links. .... We had our game story in the S-R, along with its usual appearance on the blog. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick had his story in the News Tribune and other places. ... From the Bay Area, where the big-time guys (cough, Ray Ratto, cough) were across the bay in Berkeley, there was a game story in the Chronicle and this piece in the Mercury News. ... OK, on to a few quotes.
• Bone on the discrepancy in free throws (Stanford: 15 of 22; WSU: 7 of 10): "Stanford made free throws down the stretch and we did not make free throws down the stretch and that made a big difference in the game. ... They got to the line. I think they were in the bonus and I think they had two fouls on them (actually one) at the time they were in the bonus. And that's an advantage. But they earned it. They earned that, so it wasn't the refs fault or anyone else's fault. They did a good job of earning that opportunity, getting to the bonus."
• Bone on coming back Saturday: "We've done it before, played bad games on one day and bounced back a couple days later. So I would assume we would battle back and do the best we can at Cal."
• Bone on the rest of the regular season: "Right now it's on to Cal and see if we can't beat them. We're not too worried about what other teams are doing. We're trying to be the best we can be come Pac-10 Tournament time. That's our goal. To be healthy and to be playing our best basketball."
• Koprivica on his poor shooting night: "I know my shots were not falling and I had great shots. They were not falling in. I missed a couple layins I should make. You know, it was kind of unlucky."
• Koprivica on Stanford's comeback: "We talked about it (at halftime). Up in Pullman we were up by 20 and they almost came all the way back. We said we've got to come out with the same energy like we came out in the first half. We just didn't do it. It's unreal for me we were up by 15 in the first half and then we dropped everything in the second half again. Starting with me, as a senior leader, and all the rest of the guys, we've got to step our game up and be more focused on things coach told us to do."
• Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins on the second half: "It was a tale of two halves. Very similar to the game at their place. They got off to a hot start, and our guys responded in the second half. We whittled the lead down and were able to overcome the deficit. Both teams fought hard to the end."
• Around the Pac-10: Yes, Stanford is still undefeated at home in Pac-10 play (5-0). And the Huskies have yet to win a game away from home this season. So there will be an epic showdown at Maples on Saturday. That was assured when UW came up short in the epic showdown (just kidding, folks) at Cal last night, unable to contain Jerome Randle. The senior guard sliced up UW with 33 points, leading the aforementioned Ratto to designate Cal as the Pac-10's premier team. That's a relative term, of course, and it also might be the kiss of death in this conference. ... Down in the desert, Oregon State couldn't crack the puzzling ASU zone and fell 70-57. ... The Sun Devils got a contribution from an unlikely source. ... Oregon is tied with OSU in the Pac-10 cellar after Arizona pounded the Ducks inside. ... Arizona's main man: Freshman Derrick Williams.
• That's all for now. We'll be back after we put together something for tomorrow's S-R. Until then ...