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WSU starts slow, can’t recover


COUGARS

You didn’t get to watch it, but if you did, you would have been throwing your WSU foam brick at the TV in the first few minutes. Coach Ken Bone called it a “lackadaisical effort” and took the blame, but really it was the players’ fault. Whatever’s to blame, the Cougars started poorly, played well for long stretches, but were beaten by a more experienced and, this night at least, better team. We have our game story on the link.

••••••••••

• Here’s the gamer …

PULLMAN – Well, that’s one way to quiet a crowd. And win a game.

Hit 13 of your first 16 shots. Bury six of your first seven 3-pointers. Run, run, and run some more.

That’s exactly what California did Thursday night, lighting up their rocket-quick transition game in the first 8 minutes, running out to a 20-point lead and repelling two concerted Washington State runs to defeat the Cougars, 93-88 in front of 8,277 at Beasley Coliseum.

It was the most points WSU has given up in seven years.

“The first eight minutes, that’s where the game was won or lost,” WSU coach Ken Bone said, before taking the blame. “I didn’t have our guys ready to go.”

And the Bears were, maybe more than they have since Mike Montgomery took over as coach last season.

“We’ve never came out attacking a team like that since I’ve been here,” said California senior guard Jerome Randle, who led everyone with 39 points, hitting 7 of 12 3-pointers and making every shot Cal needed as WSU tried to crawl back.

“You can’t give him space,” said Marcus Capers, who chased the 5-foot-10 Randle around all night. “And I felt like I gave him too much space at the beginning of the game.”

Actually, Randle earned it by pushing the ball.

“We contested their shots and was able to rebound and get out in transition,” said Randle, who also had nine assists and five rebounds. “We’re at our best when we’re in transition. I don’t think there is anyone who can stop us in transition.”

Certainly not the Cougars.

“At the beginning of the game,” said Capers, “we were running and they were sprinting.”

Bone saw it the same way.

“I saw a number of upperclassmen who knew what was at stake,” he said. “They came out with a tremendous amount of energy and we didn’t match that energy.”

After the Bears, who lead the Pacific 10 Conference by themselves with a 3-1 mark (11-5 overall), had jumped out 28-8, the Cougars finally upped their energy level. And it showed results.

With freshman point guard Reggie Moore – he had another strong offensive night, finishing with a career-high 25 points, hit 9 of 10 free throws and added five assists – doing the heavy lifting offensively, WSU cut the Bears lead to four, 41-37, at the half.

The last 12 minutes before intermission, the Cougars hit 13 of 16 shots.

Which didn’t phase Cal, and its four seniors, a bit. The Bears busted out to a 15-point, second-half lead at 73-58 with 8 minutes, 29 seconds left on another Randle 3-pointer in transition.

WSU (12-5, 2-3 in conference) clawed back, getting within six with 34.3 seconds left and Xavier Thames at the line. But the freshman, just inserted into the lineup, missed the front end, Moore missed a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound and Cal hit five of its last six free throws to hold on.

“A road win is huge in this league,” said Montgomery, before lamenting the tight finish, which he blamed on fatigue.

The Bears were a little short on the bench, with usual starter Markhuri Sanders-Frison out with back spasms and two key reserves left at home with injuries. Without the 6-8, 275-pound Sanders-Frison, Cal started small, giving sophomore Omondi Amoke, a 6-7 wing, the start.

But it’s was the seniors’ night. Besides Randle, Patrick Christopher had 21 points, Jamal Boykin added 16 and Theo Robertson another 13.

For WSU, Klay Thompson once again had trouble putting the ball in the basket, with his 6-of-16 shooting night making the nation’s seventh-leading scorer 15 of 46 in the Cougars three Pac-10 losses. He finished with 18 points, five under his average.

Nik Koprivica added 15 and Thames chipped in 10.

But it all came down to the start.

“As a coach, you expect your guys to come out and play hard,” Bone said. “It doesn’t always happen. Tonight was one of those nights we didn’t come out with the fire in our eyes.”

•••

• That’s it for now. We’ll be back in the morning with more on the defeat. Until then …


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