By way of a sideshow Thursday night, they staged a scavenger hunt in the bleachers of Bohler Gym.
They asked for some standard stuff - a rubber band, a bobbie pin, a lighter - and some not-so-standard. Would you believe a Nordstrom credit card?
At Hec Ed, maybe. It’s probably a requisite for enrollment over there, but remember where you are.
But even if someone in the stands had plastic, there was something else nobody in Bohler could scavenge: a challenge for Stanford.
The four-game winning streak Washington State’s women carried - as a shield, almost - into their audience with the fifth- ranked Cardinal was modest, but meaningful. Two of the victims had been Top 20 teams; the most recent wins had come on the road. The streak had separated the Cougars from the bottomfeeders of the Pacific-10 Conference and run their record to 15-10 - their best, by a damn sight, since the NCAA Tournament season of 1991.
Of such things are bubbles made. Final score: Stanford 81, WSU 47. By such things are bubbles burst.
Now, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer had suggested beforehand that the Cougars’ NCAA notions were “a stretch.” No doubt she was right, though with eight straight seasons of 25 wins or more at Stanford she is decidedly without portfolio in the bubble business.
Of course, beating a Stanford maybe shortens that stretch.
And maybe investing a buck in the lottery makes you rich.
The Cougars are 0-20 against the Cardinal, and relief is nowhere in sight. Stanford suited up five freshmen Thursday night, and if their production is averaged out over 35 minutes of play apiece - an imperfect ruler to be sure - they beat Wazzu by 20.
As it is, they’re merely the JVs.
Unfortunately, the Cougars gave it something of a JV try themselves not short on effort, by any means, but painfully tight and sloppy. Seven of their first 11 possessions were aborted by turnovers. Stanford wasn’t making like Dream Team II, either, but it was only going to be a matter of time before WSU’s offensive inefficiency was going to wear down that verve on defense.
It only hurried the inevitable when guard Julie Wight, assinged to shadow Stanford scoring leader Kate Starbird, rolled an ankle.
“Julie’s been really concentrating all week on guarding Starbird,” said Jenny Ruff, who had 21 of the Cougars’ season-low 47 points. “When she went out, (Starbird) hit a 3 on me and then took me baseline and that’s when things got away from us.”
By contrast, when Stanford’s Rachel Hemmer picked up her second foul, VanDerveer could play eeniemeenie.
“We have more depth than we ever have had,” Ruff said, “but I don’t think there’s any team that has as much as them.”
What must be maddening for WSU coach Harold Rhodes and for Washington coach Chris Gobrecht across the state - is that a good deal of it comes from around here. Naomi Mulitauaopele of Seattle was tops on UW’s wish list, but the last of Stanford’s six freshmen recruited. Moscow’s Heather Owen had her own rooting section in Bohler. Regan Freuen of Mead barely got to break a sweat; had she gone to WSU, she might have been the first sub in the game.
“Depth is what we got beat with last year by Purdue (in the NCAA West Regional final),” VanDerveer said. “This year we have bodies. You need depth in the NCAAs. You might not have to use it, but if you need it, you have to be able to go to your bench.”
There are other chasms between Cougar and Cardinal.
Rebounding. Stanford got 54, 24 on the offensive end, to WSU’s 32. On consecutive trips down the floor, the visitors got five and four shots at the basket. Ball-handling. Point guards Jamila Wideman of Stanford and Susie Jarosch of WSU each had six assists, but Wideman had just one turnover to Jarosch’s seven.
“I’m disappointed for our team,” Jarosch said, “but mostly I’m disappointed in how I played as a leader and how I let our team down.”
Noted Ruff, “It’s hard because we were ready and had confidence because of the other ranked teams we’d beaten. But we lost that confidence when we started playing.”
You could have seen it coming. Since losing at Oregon State a month ago, the Cardinal had won its next seven games by an average of 30 points. It doesn’t figure to be as easy Saturday in Seattle.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge at Washington,” VanDerveer said. “We know we’re more consistent than the other teams in the Pac-10, but in the NCAAs it’s not so much being consistent as being great.
“You only have one shot and you’d better go out and get it.”
Scavenge it, if you have to.