Well, that’s one way to rebound. Just go ahead and rebound every missed shot. Well, not every one, but close. WSU had a 37-28 rebound advantage, including 13 offensive boards. That was crucial in a game in which Klay Thompson just couldn’t get the ball to fall in the basket. We have our game story on the link - and a lot more. Read on.
• Here’s the director’s cut of the story, in all its unedited glory. …
PULLMAN – So who says this Washington State University Cougar team can’t win scoring 51 points?
Or when Klay Thompson can’t make a basket to save his scoring average?
Or less than 48 hours after their most lackluster effort of the year?
The Cougars disproved all those theories Saturday afternoon, waxing the big, bad USC Trojans big-time on the boards en route to a gut-check, 51-47 Pac-10 Conference win in front of 6,957 at Friel Court.
“This one was pivotal,” said WSU coach Ken Bone. “If we had lost this game, I don’t want to say the writing’s on the wall, but if we would have lost this game, another home game, another loss in a row, I think it might (have gotten) difficult to change the mindset of some of our guys.
“But it’s just the reverse. We beat a very good team, we did it as a team and this is the type of win we needed to head into the last couple weeks of conference play.”
The Cougars came in having lost three straight and six of their last seven, dropping to ninth in the conference. The Trojans, ineligible for postseason, had won four consecutive games, were tied in the loss column with front-runner Cal and had visions of winning a Pac-10 regular season title.
Desperation trumped momentum. But only barely.
WSU (16-11 overall, 6-9 in conference) broke a tie at 23 early in the second half with a 9-0 run, or better, walk, since it took exactly 5 minutes off the clock.
But the big lead – seemingly even bigger due to the lack of offense – slipped away due in large part to 10 missed second-half foul shots.
Abe Lodwick’s 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 35 seconds left gave WSU a 45-40 lead – Lodwick returned to the starting lineup after six games and had a Pac-10 career-high 11 points – and marked the last Cougar basket in a nearly 3-minute stretch.
But USC, which shot 38 percent for the game, couldn’t get over the hump against a Washington State defense that harkened back to teams of the recent past.
Still, with less than a minute left, WSU led just 45-44 and the shot clock was winding down.
The ball went to Reggie Moore. In Los Angeles, Moore had shredded the Trojans in the second half, finishing with 24 points and six assists. In this one he was hobbled a bit by sore legs and hounded by Mike Gerrity and Marcus Simmons. But the Cougars needed a hoop and Thompson had missed all 12 of his shots.
Moore dribbled left, came off a DeAngelo Casto pick, and, with 6-foot-7 Leonard Washington flying at him, let fly a 24-footer.
Moore didn’t see it, but he missed. So badly, in fact, the ball caromed off the backboard and through, helping Moore to a team-high 12 points.
With only 51.4 seconds left, a four-point lead would be enough, even with Thompson and Nik Koprivica each missing two free throws before the buzzer.
When Thompson gathered in Dwight Lewis’ 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left, WSU had the last of its 37 rebounds, nine more than the Trojans.
“They were hungry for a win,” said USC coach Kevin O’Neill and nowhere did that hunger show more than on the glass.
The Trojans (16-10, 8-6) entered the day second in the Pac-10 in rebounding, they start a lineup that was taller and heavier at every position than WSU and with a reputation of playing with a physical bent.
“To be able to control those guys on the boards was big, because they are so huge,” Bone said. “Those big kids are extremely good in the paint, good rebounders. Our guys did a great job of screening out.”
Casto and Koprivica led the way with seven rebounds apiece, with Marcus Capers and Thompson each adding six more. Thirteen of WSU’s boards came on the offensive end, leading to 15 second-chance points.
“That’s the game,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said.
James Watson didn’t have a board and only played 7 minutes, but he may have made the biggest defensive play in a game of them – the teams combined to shoot 38.3 percent from the floor, 18.5 from beyond the arc.
Trailing 35-31, Washington leaked out after a Thompson miss, took a pass in front of everyone and went in for a slam. But Watson came out nowhere and swatted the dunk attempt out of bounds.
“I think the play itself was bigger than you realize,” said Casto, who had 11 points. “That play, it actually sparked us again, brought us back to life.”
Nothing could spark Thompson’s shooting. The sophomore, with Lewis contesting his every move, missed from outside (0 for 3 beyond the arc) and inside (0 for 9). He missed at the line (2 of 5). It was the first time in his career he did not make a field goal and his two points were his lowest collegiate output.
Yet he helped in two ways. On defense, he guarded Lewis in the final minute, blocking his shot with 45 seconds left. And he played the role of a decoy.
“There was so much focus on stopping Klay it opened up things for other guys,” Bone said.
Plus, seven times when Thompson missed (six shots from the floor, one free throw) the Cougars grabbed the offensive rebound.
“Even with an embarrassing performance like that today, it was fine because we got a ‘W’,” Thompson said.
Not as much as Thursday night’s rout by UCLA in which the Cougars scored as many points (51) but gave up a lot more.
“They lost the other night by 20 at home so they were embarrassed,” O’Neill said. “I thought they did a great job of coming out, playing hard and getting a win.”
And that’s the best way to rebound.
• Because it’s still early, we’re going to add a few quotes and notes we didn’t get in the story. Then we’ll be back in the morning with a little shorter than usual day-after post. … Moore led the team in scoring for the second-straight game and the seventh time this season. … Lodwick’s 20 minutes is the most he’s played in a Pac-10 game ever. … Koprivica did not make a 3-point field goal snapping his 16-game streak with at least one 3-pointer. … That was the first scoreless half this year for Thompson. … USC’s 47 points were the fewest by a WSU opponent this season. Of course, WSU’s 23 first-half points are its fewest this season. And the 98 combined points were the fewest total points. … Casto struggled at the free-throw line, missing five of six attempts. The Cougars were 14-24, all the misses in the second half. … USC had 29 points in the paint. … Lewis’ 14 points came on 13 shots. He was 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. … USC scored the opening basket and that was its only lead.
• Now the quotes …
• USC coach Kevin O’Neill on the rebounding: “Ask these guys. We don’t tell them to not rebound. We just didn’t do our job. It’s disappointing.”
• O’Neill on the way the Trojans played: “I thought we played very selfishly tonight for the first time in a long time. I thought guys were worried about themselves a little bit too much, whether they were in the game or not, or whatever. And we never really got down to the business of playing basketball until about the last 3 or 4 minutes. … He (Lewis) did a great job on him (Thompson). I’m happy with our defense. I’m not happy with our rebounding and I’m not happy with our shot selection and the fact that we didn’t share the ball.”
• Bone on Thompson: “We’ve told him, at times, the concentration is going to be on you, so we have to use you as a decoy. … He did a good job tonight defensively. And then he grabbed some rebounds. In his mind he probably thought he had the worst game of his career, but in our mind he was not good on one end, but pretty darn good on the other.”
• Bone on the effort: “For our guys to come out and hold them to 47 points is an outstanding effort, especially considering how we played two days ago.”
• Bone on the lineup change: “It was to initiate the game with a little more aggressiveness and also to be able to bring somebody off the bench that we thought could help us on the offensive end.”
• Bone asked if someone had told him before the game Thompson would go 0 for 12 and they would win, would he have laughed: “No, because 0 for 12 is not funny, so I wouldn’t laugh at that. … He’s been going through a tough time. So I think it’s just a credit to our other guys. And, Klay made some really good passes tonight.”
• Bone on USC’s effort: “I think USC can play a little harder. They might have had something taken out of them the other night. Playing Washington is a drainer. To go in there and beat Washington, that takes a lot of effort. … They could be fatigued.”
• Bone on the difference between Thursday and Saturday: “We just refocused. We had some good discussions the last couple days. … It’s up to us. If we’re going to bring it, we’ve got a chance. If we’re not, we’re not giving ourselves a chance to compete.”
• That’s all for tonight. We’ll be back in the morning. Until then …