Headed to Sea-Tac to catch my flight home. On the link you’ll find my unedited game story, which probably has more in common with the way WSU played in the second half than the first. Read on.
• Here’s the gamer …
SEATTLE – Xavier Thames took a couple dribbles, squared up and let fly. His 18-foot jumper hit nothing but net.
Two seconds later, the Washington State Cougars were headed to the locker room, pounding their chests, pulling jerseys, celebrating a four-point halftime lead built on offensive execution and defensive effort.
And the Huskies seethed.
“We really wanted to come out and expose them in the second half,” Washington senior forward Quincy Pondexter said.
Which is exactly what UW did.
The Huskies held WSU without a basket for just shy of seven minutes after halftime, put together a 19-2 run and proceed to build on that, ultimately running WSU out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion, 92-64, Saturday. The result gave UW and WSU identical records: 14-7 overall, 4-5 in Pac-10 play.
“That was a disaster, that second half,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said succinctly.
The 10,000 in attendance, most of whom wore black T-shirts given away in a cancer-awareness promotion, got to see two games for the price of one, in a sense.
The first 20 minutes featured the Cougars at their finest, executing a new back-cut offense that led to easy shots – they hit five of their first seven – and flying around in a 2-3 zone that seemed to confuse the Huskies.
“We were able to execute some things and hit some shots early on,” Bone said of the Cougars’ quick 14-3 lead.
And it came with a new starting lineup. Pac-10 leading scorer Klay Thompson was late to the airport bus Friday and sat in favor of Xavier Thames and sixth-man Nik Koprivica got his first start of the year in place of Abe Lodwick. The new starters had 10 of the first 14 points.
The Huskies clawed back, with Pondexter carrying the offensive load, and took a 32-31 lead with a little more than 2 minutes left. But Pondexter, who had 19 first-half points and 29 overall, wasn’t getting any help – the rest of the Huskies were 6 of 25 in the half – and WSU broke back in front, 40-36 at intermission.
“We were just out-competed in the first half,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said.
And showed up. It started with Reggie Moore displaying his muscles to the crowd after a steal and dunk with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left until half.
“I try to send a message with whatever I do,” said Moore about the play. “That’s our rivalry and we’ve just got to play tough. That’s what I try to do.”
Mix in the end-of-half celebration and a couple of scuffles – one led to Thames and Pondexter each earning technical fouls – and the Huskies had motivation.
Plus there were other seeds of the second-half flameout being sown.
DeAngelo Casto and his backup, James Watson, both had two fouls trying to battle the stronger Huskies inside.
And Thompson, who has struggled from the floor in Pac-10 play, was really off, hitting just 1 of 8 shots.
“We could start to see them wearing down,” Pondexter said.
And the Huskies were revved up. They came out aggressively on defense, picking up four fouls in less than 2 minutes. But WSU hit just one free throw and its offense started to break down.
“I was disappointed in our lack of toughness and energy, that we need, no matter where we are,” Bone said.
With the Cougars settling for quick shots – they missed their first 12 second-half attempts, many after just one front-court pass – UW was able to get its fast-break going. The result: Drive, layup, layup and one, 3-pointer, dunk, 3-pointer, free throw, transition 3-pointer.
Just about every Husky got in the act, with Isaiah Thomas supplying most of the scoring (he finished with 19 points, 17 after halftime) and Venoy Overton the passing (seven assists).
“They outhustled us, they outrebounded us,” said Koprivica, who had his first career double-double, with 13 points (all in the first half) and 11 rebounds. “Our goal was to control the defensive boards and not let them run.”
At halftime, each team had 22 rebounds. The final tally: UW 52, WSU 38. Pondexter had 12 rebounds and razor-thin wing Justin Holiday added 10.
Casto, usually WSU’s force inside, played just 23 foul-plagued minutes, scored four points and grabbed two rebounds.
Holiday also played a role in shadowing Thompson, who tied a season-low with seven points on a season-worst 2 of 15 from the floor, 1 of 6 beyond the arc.
“I think he’s pressing,” Bone said. “He knows he’s a great shooter and, you run him out to the gym right now, he might make 90 of 100 3s with no one on him. He’s trying as hard as he can to make shots.”
“I’m just not making shots,” was Thompson’s analysis, though he did add if Bone thinks he’s pressing, he must be.
Thames, with a career-high 15 points on 6 of 8 from the floor, including his first Pac-10 3-pointers, and Moore, with 13 points but eight turnovers, tried to take up the slack.
And it worked. For 20 minutes.
“We did a good job of taking it to them in the first half,” Thompson said. “But you can’t do that just for one half. You have to do it for two.”
• That’s all for now. We’ll be back with our day-after post tomorrow morning. Until then …