Talk about a late night, well a really early morning. Got out of Phoenix at about 8 p.m. last night on the same Alaska flight with the WSU basketball team. Also made the same connection to Spokane in Seattle, which ran about 20 minutes late. All in all, didn't get into Spokane until after midnight. I had a short car ride home; the Cougars had a pretty long bus ride to Pullman remaining. And isn't today the first day of classes? Really puts the student into student/athlete, doesn't it? For more on the athlete part, read on.
• Washington State: We'll hit up the links first, with our game story and that of freelancer Howie Stalwick in the News Tribune and other papers. ... From Arizona, Doug Haller has the ASU perspective.
• Now let's get to our look back at the game. ... It couldn't have started any worse for WSU as, despite the problems with the starting lineup, Charlie Enquist gave the Cougars a chance to score first by winning the tip. WSU ran an entry they had practiced Saturday and it worked to perfection, with Abe Lodwick getting free by the basket for an easy layup. Not that easy though, as he missed it short and then, under pressure, couldn't get the tip to fall. It was shades of things to come. ... Though WSU jumped ahead 7-1, it could have been 11-1 or 13-1 if there weren't so many missed shots. Shades of things to come. ... ASU got its act together and started showing patience on the offensive end, scoring 10 of its 16 unanswered points either within 10 feet of the basket or at the free-throw line. Meanwhile, WSU was shooting quickly, often taking the first shot in the offense. Asked if the shots were quick, Bone said, "they were, but we're a pretty good shooting team, some games we hit those and it looks good. Tonight we didn't make them, so it looks like those shots are too quick." ... After the Cougars were able to claw their way back in it – Bone took a risk, brought Klay Thompson back with 7:46 left and WSU trailing 26-12 – to close within six. But the Cougars were never get any closer after the non-goaltending call – I can't tell you whether it was or wasn't, because my vantage point for that play was not very good – and they basically folded up the camp in the second half. ... Bone didn't sugarcoat the effect of the late players, but he didn't make too big a deal of the defeat either. For more from him, Nik Koprivica and some ASU players keep reading.
Bone on ASU's play early: "ASU did an excellent job of executing on both ends of the court, hitting shots and stopping us. Before you know it we were down 15 or whatever it was, 29-14 I think at one time." And in the second half: "They're a good ball club, well coached, solid players. That adds up to solid basketball. We didn't have that tonight."
Bone on WSU's defense against the Sun Devils 3-point shooters: "Not bad. I thought we did a pretty good job overall. There was one spurt there in the first half where they hit some but on the game what, they were 6 for 22? Did a pretty good job. Their best shooter I think is Kuksiks, percentage-wise, and he was 1 for 4 so we did a great job on everybody statistically except Ty Abbott made 3 out of 8. So for the game I thought we did an outstanding job on their 3-point shooters."
Bone on ASU's defense on Thompson: "They were on him on the catch more than a couple other kids. Everybody is going to aware of Klay and where he's at all times and ASU is no different than anybody else."
Bone on Thompson's two quick fouls: "They really hurt him."
Bone on what a young team can learn from a loss like this: "Well, we'll find out. I don't know. Every team is different. But I think our guys will bounce back. You know, we've had a lot of good games this year. This is the first time a team's beat us (like this), what is this, our 16th game, 15th game? It feels a little like the Kansas State game, but other than that, it's only the second time this year we've been beat badly. At least it feels like we were beat badly."
Nik Koprivica on if there are lessons to learn from the game: "It doesn't feel good right now. We've got to use this feeling and never allow it to happen (again)."
Koprivica on the inconsistency: "This is the problem with young teams. You've got to be consistent. And we were not this weekend. ... I'm not used to being with young teams. When I got here we were pretty old. ... When we come out like everything is going to be OK, just go through the motions, we are a pretty average team."
Ty Abbott on defending Thompson: "Pretty much what we do against a prolific scorer. We want to know where he is at all times. We communication, if he’s in the corner we want a guy saying I have him in the corner. Wherever he moves we trade him off and make sure we have a body on him."
Abbott on ASU's offensive success: "We started to open it up and give ourselves a little more freedom, have more lanes to drive and kick and really create for each other instead of standing around."
On the slow start: "Are you ready? We came out a little flat. They were hitting their shots and we didn’t have a purpose. It was find a purpose and come together and start getting stops. Play offense the way we know how to play on offense."
On their chances this year: "I’m not going to say we’re going to go out and beat everybody but after what happened last week and come back and get two good wins against two good teams, you can’t help but feel good and be ready to build on what we’ve put out right now."
Herb Sendek on ASU's play: "Our guys came out focused with real purpose and set the tone on the defensive end. ... A great team effort. Guys are doing what they’re supposed to be doing the last couple of games. ... Guys want to play well. Sure they want to score but they want to play well. They understand that for us to have a chance we have to play good defense. We’ve talked about this all along, we don’t have a very high margin. We have to be really good if we’re going to win. We have to be close to our best and I really like the way our guys responded this past week, but once again it’s one segment, one week, two games. The next game’s almost ready to start."
On defending Thompson: "He’s such a great player. He the third leading scorer in the nation and I had a chance to work with him at USA Basketball this summer. He’s as good as there is at reading screens and cutting. You have to have awareness and play well."
• Around the Pac-10: We got on the ground in Seattle and the first thing Bud Nameck did was check the Oregon score. Some silly sportswriter had the audacity to say he thought Oregon State would win, fitting in nicely with the off-the-wall nature of this year's Pac-10 season. When Nameck saw the score he started chuckling. Yes, the Beavers did win, throwing another wrench in anyone's prognostications of the rest of the season. Really, as Bud asked, what happens if everyone finishes 9-9 in conference? A lot of coin flips? My response: If that happens, UCLA somehow gets the No. 1 seed. Book it. ... More on OSU's win here and here. ... There are rumblings around the conference of divisiveness among the Huskies, with reports of some jawing on the bench at ASU among other issues. It might help explain their jaw-droppingly poor weekend in the desert, capped by a big loss at Arizona. The win gives the Wildcats hope the future could be brighter. ... One more comment on Pac-10 basketball. So there is Cal, Stanford – the teams that visit the Palouse this weekend – and Oregon at 2-1. Five others, including WSU, are 2-2. OSU is 1-2 and, all by itself in the cellar, is defending champion Washington at 1-3. Weird. ... Now to football. It's official. USC is looking for a new coach. It doesn't look as if it will ever be Mike Riley, not after he signed an extension.
• That's it for this morning. We'll be back as news warrants. Until then …