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Cougars look better than expected against Colorado

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Wasn't it Mark Twain who said “the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated” or something like that? It's quite possible that witticism could apply to Washington State's basketball team. That's if the Cougars continue to play like they did on Wednesday night in the Spokane Arena. Read on.


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• Yes, Washington State was playing without its best scorer, DaVonté Lacy, out with a rib injury. And yes, the Spokane Arena was more library than ThunderDome, with a bit more than 3,000 in attendance (and we will get to that). And yes, Colorado looked like its upset of 10th-ranked Oregon last weekend was giving it a bit of a hangover. But still, the Cougars played basketball the way the Cougars have to play basketball to have a chance to win in the Pac-12. They made the game ugly on the defensive end – that's a compliment – and they spread the Buffaloes out and made long-range shots. Dexter Kernich-Drew played Lacy's role in this one, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 24 points. Considering his previous Pac-12 best game included 11 points, you would have to say his performance was unexpected. But needed. And freshman Que Johnson also added an early spark (and a last-second “rise-up-and-bury-it” 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime), though foul trouble limited him to 21 minutes, half of what Kernich-Drew and Royce Woolridge played. I'm sure WSU coach Ken Bone is wondering this morning how different the outcome would have been if Johnson could have stayed on the court a bit longer. He's probably also wondering how a nominally home team could shoot – and make – three free throws and the visiting team could shoot 38. Yes, 38. By my math that's 35 more which is, as I check my scientific dictionary for the precise term, a “boatload” more. OK, so Colorado played around the basket a lot more than WSU, which always leads to whistles. And the Buffs Askia Booker will attack the rim with the bounce as often as possible, which also does. But you would have to think the Cougars would get to the line once in a while. Heck, WSU didn't shoot its second foul shot until there were a little more than 2 minutes left. By then Colorado had already shot 30, a figure that didn't escape Bone's notice. And I am sure Chris Rastatter, the veteran official who happened to be running past Bone at the time, appreciated the reminder. But that's just part of the deal when you aren't expected to win. Nothing seems to go your way. A breakthrough is tough, especially against a ranked team, as Colorado is (15th in latest Associated Press poll). Football coaches of struggling teams like to use a phrase, “you have to keep sawing wood.” It means, of course, if you keep at it, the tree will fall sooner or later. Well, the Cougar basketball team has to keep pulling that saw back and forth, even if it is missing a few teeth and needs sharpening. If they do, they'll cut somebody down sooner or later.

• OK, so what was the deal with 3,122 in the stands? I understand the problem with driving to Pullman in the middle of winter, so I'm not going to come down too hard on Spokane's Cougar fans for not doing that, especially when the chances of winning – and feeling that glow that comes along with it – are not great. But what's the excuse last night? You didn't want to miss “The Middle?” Well, OK. Use the DVR. The Tri-Cities came up with 2,911 on a Wednesday night last month for a game against San Francisco State. Geez, Colorado is one of the better teams in the nation and worth the price of admission by itself. And this area couldn't do better than 3,122? I'm at a loss.

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• WSU: Jacob Thorpe was in the Arena last night and posted interview videos with Kernich-Drew, Woolridge and Bone along with the box score. He also had, of course, his game story in today's paper and a morning post with links. Finally, Jacob has a preview of the week ahead. … John Blanchette was also there and talked with athletic director Bill Moos about the state of the WSU basketball program. … Colin Mulvany added the visual element with this photo story. … The Buffaloes, and coach Tad Boyle, weren't pleased with how they played. Boyle termed it “lethargic.” … The 2014 Pac-12 football schedule was released yesterday and Jacob has a story and blog post on WSU's. There is also thoughts about the conference's schedule from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog and San Jose's Jon Wilner. … One final note: Former WSU (and Eastern) football coach Paul Wulff will be returning to the college ranks as the offensive coordinator at the University of South Florida.

• Gonzaga: The Zags finally hit the road for a WCC game, but it's not too far. Just to Portland where an improved Pilot team awaits. Jim Meehan has an advance as part of the college notebook. … Jim has the weekend preview. … The Gonzaga women will host BYU tonight in what is a crucial weekend for the Zags. There was some luster taken off Saturday's showdown with USD however, when the Toreros were upset in Portland last night. … Back to the men, BYU will try to keep its momentum going despite an injury while USD just hopes to get a victory.

• EWU: Parker Kelly could always shoot. But he's honed his game even more since walking on at Eastern. Jim Allen has a feature on the Eagles' captain and former Gonzaga Prep standout. … Jim also has a preview of a big weekend for EWU.

• Idaho: Josh Wright has the preview of the Vandals' basketball weekend.

• Whitworth: The Pirates new offensive coordinator, Alan Stanfield, talked with Greg Lee about the change from high school to college. … The Pirates also retained Jason Tobeck from last year's staff. Thomas Clouse has the story

• Chiefs: The Chiefs will be on Root Sports a few times as part of the WHL's deal with the cable channel. … Portland had been struggling but they opened a road trip last night with a 4-1 win at Everett. … Tri-City made a trade yesterday.

• Preps: The big news from the prep ranks yesterday was the WIAA releasing the school classification attendance numbers. Greg went through them and explains what it all means for the fall. … Being it's Thursday and it's Prep Page day, Greg also has this feature on Ferris' Cody Benzel. … U-Hi handed Mead its first wrestling loss of the season. Mike Vlahovich has the story. … Longtime football coach Mike McLaughlin has stepped down at Mt. Spokane. That's part of Greg's notebook. … We can also pass along a roundup from last night.

• Seahawks: Wednesday's are reserved, to some degree, for media duties throughout the NFL. In New Orleans, Sean Payton spoke and he spoke highly of Russell Wilson. Why not? And in Seattle, just about everyone had something to say, from Earl Thomas to Richard Sherman to Pete Carroll to Wilson. And Thomas had a lot to say. … What is clutch? … If Marshawn Lynch keeps talking, he won't have to pay his $50,000 fine. If he stops, it's doubled. … An injury report was released and Percy Harvin and Luke Willson were listed as full participants in practice. Ah, the healing power of the playoffs. … The Hawks' run defense needed a healthy Bobby Wagner (pictured). … One of the reasons for the Hawks success is everyone in management seems to pulling the same way on the rope. It's led to great things. … Drew Brees wasn't sharp the first time the teams met. The Saints expect more this time.

• Mariners: Edgar Martinez's Hall of Fame voting percentage fell yesterday but, as always, he handled it with class. It doesn't look as if Martinez will ever be voted into the Hall.

• Sounders: Seattle has resigned goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.

•••

• Thursday's are always full. And today is no exception. I will again be on the Patchin, Lukens and Osso show. If you want to listen between 3 and 5:45 p.m. (we are off a bit early for the Eastern basketball game), you can here. Until then …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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