I've been watching Washington State basketball off-and-on since the early 1980s, real closely the past five years. And I don't remember a poorer defensive showing by the Cougars. Read on.
• Yes, Oregon played well. Real well. But there was nothing the Ducks did on the offensive end that was new or unusual. A lot of ball screens. Pull the other big out of the key, drawing the defender. Roll or slip the screener toward the basket. They did it well and E.J. Singler, the Ducks' four man, has hurt WSU in the past so the Cougars had to be aware of where he was, but it wasn't anything unusual. Stopping it took help. And help wasn't there. Maybe that's what Marcus Capers meant when he said after the game, "I felt like some individuals felt like they could do their own deal, and that's not what Washington State basketball is about." No, Washington State basketball, even this season, is about playing tough defense and making the opponent take tough shots. Even when Gonzaga scored 89 points in the season opener, the Zags didn't shoot better than 50 percent from the floor. No one had this year until Oregon. Heck, at one point the Ducks were 22 of 30. Yes, some of the 34 baskets Oregon scored were well defended – like Brett Kingma's end-of-the-first-half 3-pointer, but the Cougars' defensive rotation was so awful in the first half – they helped but didn't help the helper, the sign of true team defense – I counted 12 dunks or layups in Oregon's first 22 makes. Even in the second half, when Oregon began running a high-post delay game similar to WSU's open offense, the Cougars gave up way-too-many free cuts to the rim for layups. ... And it's not like Ken Bone didn't try different defenses and/or combinations. "We played a lot of very unusual lineups, because we kept trying to matchup with a smaller, quicker Oregon team who was beating us in transition and beating us in the halfcourt with quickness," said Bone, who even tried using Will DiIrio at the four to matchup with Singler and the like. The Cougars tried a possession of zone. An open 3. They tried trapping. Two Singler layups to start the second half. They tried showing on off-ball screens, not showing, chasing, shortcutting, and none of it worked. Plus, the odd combinations hurt on the offensive end – though even the starting group and the usual substitution pattern early still resulted in too much standing around. "A team like that is going to look real good when we didn't take them out of what they wanted to do," Abe Lodwick said and the converse was true Thursday. Oregon took WSU out of what it wanted to do and the Cougars didn't look real good. ... The listed attendance tonight was 9,889, which seemed high for an arena that seats 12,000 for hoops. Yet the crowd wasn't bad and wanted badly to make noise for the Cougars. But they didn't find much to cheer about. ... Here's our game story.
• That's it for now. We'll return in the morning at some time. Until then ...