Before the game, I turned to Howie Stalwick and pointed to my note pad. On it was something I rarely, if ever do: a prediction of the final score. I had UW winning by 15. Boy was I ever wrong. The 92-64 shellacking (gotta love that word) by the Dawgs was hard to envision before the game and even harder to see at halftime. But it happened. We have some thoughts about how it came about along with links to chronicles of what occurred. Read on.
• Washington State: Let’s start with the basketball links (we have a couple of football links at the bottom of the post). … We had our game story at it appeared in the paper this morning and on this blog last night. … The Seattle Times coverage included a gamer and a Jerry Brewer column. … The News Tribune had the same combination, a story and a John McGrath column. … The Everett Herald had this story. … Stalwick, who predicted the Huskies’ final score (but missed the Cougs by even more than I) had a column in the Kitsap Sun. … Finally, there is this examination of the WSU perspective from the P-I along with game coverage.
• That’s it for the game stories. So how did such a precipitous fall occur? How did the Cougars go from a competitive first half to such a discombobulated second half? We have some thoughts, and they are built on a different foundation than anything else I’ve seen. … We’ll start inside. For the first time I’ve seen this year – I missed the Kansas State game – the Cougars got manhandled around the rim. Tyreese Breshers, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Quincy Pondexter, heck even Darnell Gant in his five minutes, they all physically overpowered their WSU counterparts. It wasn’t a height thing, it was strength. With a backline on their 2-3 zone of Nik Koprivica, DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson, the Cougars had trouble keeping UW’s bigs off the block and off the offensive glass – especially with Casto in serious foul trouble for one of the few times this season. UW overpowered them. “They did,” WSU coach Ken Bone said after I asked him about it. “That’s what we talked about. We talked about that in the locker room that the first thing we better do is get in the weight room this spring. It’s a little too late right now, but we’ve just got to get stronger.” The group that was available, minus Koprivica and with 6-foot-7 Patrick Simon, will more than likely be the inside contingent for next year. A big improvement in strength is needed if the Cougars are going to be a tournament team in the future. … With the UW bigs locking down the baseline, and the threat of Isaiah Thomas, Elston Turner and others hitting outside shots – it didn’t materialize until the second half but the threat was there – the WSU 2-3 began to stretch midway through the first half. The guards were high, the bigs were low and Pondexter took advantage. Lorenzo Romar moved him the high post, allowing him to attack the soft middle of the WSU zone. Making shallow cuts, he flashed to the ball and was unstoppable. “He’s a tough matchup, especially when he gets the ball at the elbow,” Bone said. “It’s the same thing they used to do with Brandon Roy (who was in attendance). You get a guy of that caliber who can shoot it from there, drive it, post and offensive rebound, that’s a great place to get a guy the ball.” … But even if the Cougars had been playing suffocating zone defense, it wouldn’t have mattered in the second half. Basketball coaches discovered 80 years ago the best way to neutralize a tough zone is beat it down the court. And that’s just what the Huskies did, with an assist from the Cougars. In the first half, a fresh WSU team ran its offense with precision, back cutting against the Husky pressure and exposing its holes. But the Cougars tired. The cuts slowed. The holes clogged. And the offense stagnated. One pass, one dribble, one shot. UW rebound, fast break, basket. “We stopped moving as well, for sure,” Bone said. “To execute that, you have to sprint. You have to come out and you have to sprint to the rim. If you don’t get it, you have to sprint and get out of there, because the next guy’s coming. So we tried to do it for a couple possessions here, a couple possessions there. We executed well at first when we were fresh, but once we got fatigued, it just seemed there was always somebody who wasn’t really sprinting to the spot.” Which allowed Washington to defend. “I think UW stepped up their defense,” Bone said, “and forced us to rush shots, which quite often happens when the defense picks up their intensity.” Out of balance on offense, the Cougars were out of balance in their transition defense and it showed. … There is more, of course, including the mystifying shooting slump Klay Thompson is going through and the lineup change that saw Nik Koprivica start for the first time (and put together his best WSU game), but we’ve covered enough this morning. Let’s move on …
And here’s the quotebook …
• Bone on the Huskies: “I think the Huskies showed who they are on some nights, and they showed us. Those last 20 minutes were a pretty frustrating experience, but give UW all the credit, they pretty much put us in our place.”
• Bone on the Cougars: “I was proud of the fact that our guys came into a hostile environment and played a very good 20 minutes. I was impressed with what our guys were able to do in the first 20. It’s just disappointing that we weren’t able to sustain it for a few more minutes than 20, but it seemed like once the second half started, UW had our number. It was really a tale of two halves.”
• Bone on playing so much zone: “They are not a great 3-point shooting team and the 2-3 worked really well the first half, so we stayed with it the second half. When they just started lighting it up, we finally got out of it, went man. By that time I think they had it rolling and it didn’t matter what we did.”
• Bone on if his team lit a fire in UW: “I didn’t see that. I saw when Reggie had a dunk he looked up into the crowd. I don’t know what he was looking at, but he was supposed to be in 42 defense.”
• Bone on Casto’s foul trouble: “That didn’t change (what we do) a lot, because James Watson supplies a lot of energy and does a good job. It was more just disappointment we couldn’t have (Casto) out on the floor. We need his energy and we need to play off somebody’s energy and he’s usually the one who provides that. When he’s not in there, you know James works hard but he’s not DeAngelo yet.”
• Thames on the start of the second half: “I think we rushed things in the second half. We were kind of impatient. If we were more aggressive in the second half, I think things would have been OK on both ends of the court.”
• Thames on Pondexter: “That’s when they started getting good looks. They flashed Quincy to the high post and we didn’t see him as guards up top and he got easy 15-footers in the paint. That affected us a lot.”
• Thames on the start: “That was real cool. That was real fun. We came out aggressive on both ends of the court. On defense we were grabbing rebounds and on offense, sharing the ball, passing the ball, getting easy buckets. That was very good to see in the first four minutes.”
• Koprivica on UW’s strength: “If you look at the first half, it did not look like that. Yes, they are bigger and stronger than we are, but we as a team did a good job the first half, showed we can battle with them. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that the second half.”
• Around the Pac-10: First place will be on the line today when Cal invades McKale. A win by the Bears not only gives them their first-ever weekend sweep in Arizona, it gives them a two-game lead at the halfway point. An Arizona win puts the Wildcats into a tie, a game up on the pack. … In Saturday’s games, ASU got back on the winning track by quickly blowing past a Stanford team that’s yet to win on the Pac-10 road. … UCLA is one of those 5-4 teams after splitting the Oregon trip. The Beavers had no answer against the Bruin zone. … So what is it about the University of Oregon and technical fouls this season? First, the Ducks are pretty much handed a win by one in Pullman, then last night another weird one – on a USC manager, no less – helps them defeat the Trojans.
• That’s all for this morning. Except I promised you a couple of football links. Here they are. We had our recruiting story today (it ran a little longer here). And read through this Bay Area report. Interesting. … We’ll be back as events warrant. Until then …