We're back in what is today the real Valley of the Sun (though where my house is located is more a plateau than a valley, but the sun is shining once again, so I hope you get the picture). Our trip from Well Fargo Arena to the car reminded me of my usual morning shower, sans the towel, but by the time we arrived at the airport we had dried out and were ready for the long trip home. After a short but restful night's sleep, we have some more notes and quotes for you, so read on.
• Washington State: My favorite anecdote from the weekend … While we were standing in the Wells Fargo Arena hallway by the WSU locker room, waiting for the players to come out after the game, an Arizona State employee walks by. Her hair is wet, there is big drops of water on her sweatsuit and someone asks, “Is it still raining out there?” The look she gave him – not me – would have killed an elephant. … On to the game. I can't think of much more to say, other than reiterate the Cougars surely need to win the Pac-10 tournament to play in the NCAA tournament, that an NIT bid – there aren't that many of them anymore – may be contingent on the next four-plus games (the three conference contests and what ever they get in LA) and that there were some players on the plane last night in such a funk nothing was going to get them out of it. … Now the stories. We had our game story in today's S-R, which you may have already ready thanks to last night's post. … The loss dropped WSU from fourth to sixth in the conference standings. If California upsets UCLA today, the Bears would move into a tie with the Cougars. … CougCenter has its usual colorful and informative charts. … There may have been a reason why ASU played so intently, as the Arizona Republic's Doug Haller explains. … That's it except we have a bunch of post-game comments for you.
• On the comeback: “As the game went on, we became more intense and aggressive. I wish we could have played that way for 40 minutes. You can't go back now.”
• On the first-half turnovers: “A number of our turnovers in the first half were just kind of careless and made in non-aggressive plays. In the second half, when we became more aggressive, I thought we took care of the ball better and just played much better. Definitely with more energy.”
• On the second half offense: “We looked to move it, move it, move it and then attack. … We wanted to do it in the first half too, but I didn't think we were moving it quick enough to create gaps in their defense.”
• On Klay Thompson getting 28 shots and only getting to the line once: “He tried. He attacked a number of times. And there were a lot of bodies in there near him.”
• On ASU's defense of DeAngelo Casto: “They did a good job defending DeAngelo and making it difficult for him right from the tip.”
• On the free throw shooting: “It was poor, 56 percent. I've seen worse, but to win a close game, quite often you go back to free throws. And they were 78 percent, we were 56. In a two-point game, you have to take a look at that.”
• On the early double teams: “They were throwing different guys at me and I was trying to find open guys. I don't think it's something we've done as a team yet. I don't think we're used to it. Because there has to be open guys. I'm looking. It's not like I'm trying to stand down there and shoot against two people. I'm looking for open guys. We're not used to the ball going down and getting doubled.”
• On the end of the game: “I thought as soon as Abe hit that 3 to put us up one, we might have taken their breath away a little bit. I thought we were on the (edge) of making a great run.”
• On the two free throws near the end: “I haven't been in that situation recently, (but) I should have knocked them down.”
• On the nature of the game: “After playing Arizona, which is a ranked team and then coming in (here), it's always kind of scary about what could happen. We definitely did need to bring energy, which we somewhat lacked.”
• On final three-point shot: “A lot of things were going through my head. It just really felt great to get a win finally. With the way things have been going when that shot was in the air I didn’t have the best feeling and when it hit the rim a kind of weight was just lifted off my shoulders.”
• On seniors Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks out: “When we heard Ty was not going to play and we knew that Ricks ankle was really bothering him we knew that even if they weren’t going to play that they would be providing support and be talking to us on the bench and they were a great help throughout the game. We wouldn’t be in this position without them, that is for sure.”
• On elevated level of play: “I think it really started at breakfast, we had a pregame meal and Coach Smith and Coach Pera came in yelling and ready to go so it really just started there. We just came out with energy and we played it hard all 40 minutes. We’d always either have a run or have a good half but we’d have let-ups and let our leads away or wouldn’t finish off possessions and stuff like that so I think it was just putting a full game together finally.”
• On hitting free throws down the stretch: “I knocked some down but not enough. When it comes down to that last three it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had made them. We pulled it out that’s all that matters right now.”
• On starting: “I actually found out before the game. I’ve just always been ready to come in and give whatever it takes to win.”
• On the sense of relief of winning: “It helps. It gives our guys some confidence going into the rest of the season and I think we can build off of this and keep getting better. It gives us something to work for.”
• On final three-point shot: “Ya, I’ve got to knock those down. I don’t like the feeling at the end when there is a 3 up in the air where they can win the game. I’m going to keep practicing and I think that situation is going to help me in the future.”
• Around the Pac-10: Looking back at my Twitter feed from yesterday, it was almost like the national media rediscovered Pac-10 basketball thanks to Arizona's 87-86 victory over Washington. Call it the power of ESPN. If that game was on FSN, think the Pat Fordes and Dennis Dobbses of the world would have been so enamored? Me neither. … Derrick Williams' block of Darnell Gant's last-second shot may live on in Arizona lore. The question in Seattle: Was it goaltending? … Oregon moves into a tie for fourth in the conference by routing visiting Oregon State 82-63 to sweep the season series. So much for the motivating factor of 5:30 a.m. practices in Corvallis. … Oregon is tied with USC, who also earned a season sweep, defeating Stanford 69-53 in Northern California. … UCLA, in balance would like to sweep Cal today and keep their Pac-10 title hopes alive.
• That's it for this morning. We'll be back tomorrow. It's a weird week with the game not until Sunday and no school for WSU on Monday. Until later …