If Ken Bone sees too many more games like this, he may start looking as old as some sportswriters I could name (I mean me, of course). The Cougars pulled out a tough, hard to fathom – considering how little success WSU has done in the McKale Center over the years - victory Friday night. "It's really important to come into a place like McKale and walk out with a win," said WSU coach Ken Bone. "We were fortunate to come out of here with the W." Read on for our game story.
• Here's the long version of the game story, unedited of course ...
TUCSON – Everyone stopped and looked. No, not this time. No whistle.
DeAngelo Casto's point-blank basket with .1-second remaining not only lifted Washington State University past the University of Arizona, 78-76, Friday night, but gave everyone connected with the Cougars flashbacks.
Flashbacks to just eight days earlier, when Casto dropped in another short shot to seemingly defeat Oregon by two at the end of overtime. A technical foul for too many players on the court, however, allowed the Ducks to tie and win in the next overtime.
Not this time.
"I looked immediately (at the bench)," said Reggie Moore of the final basket. "I knew there was .1 on the clock, so there was no way they could score. Just make sure everybody was off the court."
On the court it was Moore, the freshman point guard, who took over down the stretch. He finished with a career-high 20 points, including 11 in a key second-half stretch when the Wildcats (7-8 overall, 1-2 in the Pacific-10) looked as if they had wrested control.
And it was Moore who coach Ken Bone trusted with the ball after UA had forged the game's 10th and final tie on freshman Solomon Hill's putback with 13.5 seconds remaining.
Bone eschewed a time out, allowing Moore, who struggled against Arizona's pressure defense early, but seemed to grow more experienced by the second-half minute, to make a play.
"In my mind I was thinking there was no way we could lose," said Moore of the last play. "I told coach that I had it."
Casto came up to the top of key to set a screen. Moore drove off it left, and 6-foot-7 Jamelle Horne tried to switch. With Klay Thompson, who finished with 19 points – five below his average – and eight rebounds, in the corner, help was late. So Moore was able to turn the corner, as he had done six times previously, scoring on five of them.
Not this time though.
"Nic Wise came down to cut me off in the lane," Moore said, referring to Arizona's senior point guard, with whom he battled all night, "and I dumped it to DeAngelo. He made the play, just like I expected him to."
The clock showed 0.01, and everyone looked to the WSU bench. The coaches and players had their arms extended like a fence, making sure a sorry chapter wasn't repeated.
Arizona tossed the ball in, Wise touched it and the Cougars were 2-1 in the Pac-10 and 12-3 overall. It was only their eighth win in Tucson, this one coming before 12,758, who filed out quietly.
"When you've had a game taken away from you, you learn," said WSU coach Ken Bone, like Moore seemingly aging quickly beyond his years.
One thing Bone's learned is he has one player he can count on to make plays with the ball.
"He's the guy who can do it best for us," Bone said of Moore. "I don't have a whole lot of choice."
Which made the last play easy.
"I know Reggie has a lot of experience with the on-ball (screen)," Bone said, "so let's put him in that position, and try to let him make a play."
Earlier on, he didn't. The freshman had a career-worst six turnovers, four of them in the first half. That's when Arizona's defense forced WSU into 10, keeping the Wildcats tied at halftime despite their woeful early shooting – after 10 minutes they were shooting 29 percent – and struggle on the boards – WSU had a 18-14 edge at the half and a 35-26 margin when it was over.
But the second half was a new semester and Moore schooled Wise more than once on aggressive drives. The Cougars built a 10-point lead halfway through, saw Horne (12 points), Kyle Fogg and Derrick Williams (13 apiece) power the Wildcats back in front, then rallied down the stretch.
"He's one of the best in the Pac-10," Moore said of the UA senior who finished with 15 points, including six in the final 4 minutes. "I grew up watching Arizona on TV and seeing him throughout the years."
"To play as well as he did was amazing," Arizona coach Sean Miller said of Moore, playing in his first Pac-10 road game. "He got to the free-throw line 14 times."
If Miller was trying to make a point about the whistles, he was a lot more subtle then he was with 6:48 left. That's when Williams, his prized freshman and leading scorer, was called for his fifth foul, a call Miller hotly debated.
The 6-8 Williams, who 15 seconds earlier had earned a charge call on Thompson despite looking to be in the no-charge area under the basket, attacked the rim and bumped into Casto, who fell to the floor, drawing the crucial whistle and turnover with WSU up 62-58.
"I've seen DeAngelo play defense long enough now to know he moves his feet and really gets his chest between the basket and the ball," Bone said.
"I know he's a good player and offensive minded," Casto said. "I knew he was going to face up and try to take me to the rim. I just wanted to get my chest in there."
It was one of several big defensive stops the Cougars earned down the stretch, though leading 76-74 after Moore made one of two free throws with 27.5 seconds left, they couldn't keep Wise from getting to the rim or Hill from following up the miss. It was the last of UA's nine offensive rebounds. But the Cougars had 12, including six from Casto (he had nine rebounds total), to go along with 16 points. None more important than the last two.
"I caught it and kind of did a little flick," Casto said. Asked how many game-winners he's had, the sophomore smiled, and said, "that's two this year."
And this one counted.
• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning with more notes and quotes. Until then ...