A little inside baseball. While you're sitting at home watching what was a spectacularly entertaining basketball game last night, either jumping with joy or firing the remote into the coach pillows, there were about 10 people in the Staples Center who were just trying to survive. And, no, they weren't on the court. Read on.
• Washington State: There are a lot of upsides to this job, I'll be the first to admit. But trying to put together a coherent report on a game like that at the time it was played, is not one of them. What we ended up with can be found here and I hope it makes a modicum of sense. As I look back on the game now, it's a little easier to appreciate the spectacular individual performance put on by ... Isaiah Thomas. We'll get to that in a second. First off let's talk about Klay Thompson's night. Here's a guy who just finished scoring 43 points, who hit 8 of 14 – that's 57 percent folks – of his 3-point shots, who had managed to survive foul trouble and all he wanted to talk about in the locker room was missing a free throw at the end. Actually, he remembered he missed two and WSU lost by two, 89-87. If that wasn't the most impressive individual basketball performance by a Cougar, it has to rank among the top two or three. And think of the circumstances. Thursday marijuana citation. Friday's suspension. Saturday's apology. Monday's amnesty. ... And yet it wasn't enough. Mainly because Washington State couldn't keep Thomas out of the key, especially in the second half. The 5-foot-9 guard would hesitate, seem to be ready to pull up, then bounce past whoever was out front and get into the paint. If an outside shooter was open, boom. If it was Matthew Bryan-Amaning, bam. In all, Thomas accounted for 47 points, scoring 21 himself and dishing off 11 times for hoops, two of those 3-pointers. ... But you have to realize, for the first time this season against WSU, his mates stepped up. Bryan-Amaning finished inside, hitting 7-of-11 shots. Justin Holiday, who grabbed 10 rebounds, missed every 3-pointer he took but still had 12 points. Freshman C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross combined to hit 11-of-21 attempts, 8-of-16 beyond the arc and score 33 points. In five halves against WSU, Washington never shot better than 41.4 percent, and that was in the first half Thursday. In the second half, the Huskies made 22-of-38 shots. That's 57.9 percent. They got the pace they wanted, they got the shots they wanted and they scored 57 points. Now that's the Husky team everyone thought would win the Pac-10. ... About that pace. When WSU turned the ball over on its first second-half possession and Reggie Moore compounded the error with his third foul, the stage was cast, to mix a couple metaphors. Over the next few minutes the game went up and down, up and down and it wore on DeAngelo Casto, Thompson, a still-hurting Moore and everyone else. The stress was compounded by little to no contribution by the supporting cast. Coach Ken Bone tried to milk some bench time to have a few legs left for the stretch, but in the minutes played – Casto 34, Thompson 37 (despite foul trouble), Moore 23 (despite foul trouble and a gimpy ankle), Aden 32) – it was obvious he felt win this game and the Cougars are dancing. And they probably would have been. ... So what now? If you check out the NIT bracketology folks – yes, there are people who do that – you'll see the Cougars were either a two seed going into last night or, well, a two seed. If that turns out to be the case, WSU will bid to host the game next week, even though the students will be gone. So expect to see the Cougars on the court again. Not that I'm predicting this will be the case, but it will be one more chance, maybe the last one, to watch Klay Thompson play. ... John Blanchette has his column concerning the postseason. ... And there are post mortems from CougCenter, Steve Kelley in the Times and gamers from The Times' Percy Allen and Don Ruiz of the News Tribune. ... By the way, the Cougars did cover the 5.5-point spread. ... I tweeted this football news yesterday afternoon, but thought I better put it here as well. Brandon Rankin will undergo shoulder surgery today. Rankin's right shoulder bothered him in the fall, but it was hoped exercise and rest could heal what ailed him. Instead, it flared up again the first day of the spring. He is expected back for fall camp. And linebacker Louis Bland's suspension is over. The junior was back on the practice field Thursday, the Cougars last before a week off for spring break. Coach Paul Wulff said afterward he had sifted through the information concerning Bland's domestic arrest and felt comfortable allowing him back at practice.
• Around the Pac-10: USC punched out California's lights early in the first game, sending the Bears home with a 70-56 defeat. And then USC coach Kevin O'Neill may have done the same to an Arizona fan – O'Neill coached at UA for one year until Lute Olson decided he wasn't the man to replace the legend after all – in a bar late last night. ... The biggest upset of the night was posted by Oregon, who did to UCLA what Washington State did last Saturday night in Pullman. Except the Ducks did it for the entire game, winning 76-59. ... Arizona survived an early punch by the Beavers, then a later one from Joe Burton – he was ejected – to move on, 78-69. ... Larry Scott took the occasion of the tournament to talk with the media.
• That's it for this morning. We'll be back later with more, I'm pretty sure. Until then ...