SEATTLE – Xavier Thames took a couple of dribbles, squared up and let fly. His 18-foot jumper hit nothing but net.
Two seconds later, the Washington State Cougars were headed to the locker room, pounding their chests, pulling jerseys, celebrating a four-point halftime lead built on offensive execution and defensive effort.
And the Huskies seethed.
“We really wanted to come out and expose them in the second half,” Washington senior forward Quincy Pondexter said.
Which is exactly what UW did.
The Huskies held WSU without a basket for just shy of seven minutes after halftime Saturday, put together a 19-2 run and proceeded to build on that, ultimately running WSU out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion 92-64. The result gave UW and WSU identical records: 14-7 overall, 4-5 in Pac-10 play.
“That was a disaster, that second half,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said succinctly.
The first 20 minutes featured the Cougars at their finest, executing a new back-cut offense that led to easy shots – they hit five of their first seven – and flying around in a 2-3 zone that seemed to confuse the Huskies.
“We were able to execute some things and hit some shots early on,” Bone said of the Cougars’ quick 14-3 lead.
And it came with a new starting lineup. Pac-10 leading scorer Klay Thompson was late to the airport bus Friday and sat in favor of Xavier Thames and sixth man Nik Koprivica got his first start of the year in place of Abe Lodwick. The new starters had 10 of the first 14 points.
The Huskies clawed back, with Pondexter carrying the offensive load, and took a 32-31 lead with a little more than two minutes left. But Pondexter, who had 19 first-half points and 29 overall, wasn’t getting any help – the rest of the Huskies were 6 of 25 in the half – and WSU led 40-36 at intermission.
“We were just out-competed in the first half,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said.
And showed up. It started with Reggie Moore displaying his muscles to the crowd after a steal and dunk with 4:15 left until half.
“I try to send a message with whatever I do,” said Moore about the play. “That’s our rivalry and we’ve just got to play tough. That’s what I try to do.”
Mix in the end-of-half celebration and a couple of scuffles – one led to Thames and Pondexter earning technical fouls – and UW had motivation.
There were other seeds of the second-half flameout being sown. DeAngelo Casto and his backup, James Watson, both had two fouls trying to battle the stronger Huskies inside.
And Thompson, who has struggled from the floor in Pac-10 play, was really off, hitting just 1 of 8 shots.
“We could start to see them wearing down,” Pondexter said.
The Huskies came out aggressively on defense, picking up four fouls in less than two minutes. But WSU hit just one free throw and its offense started to break down.
With the Cougars settling for quick shots – they missed their first 12 second-half attempts – UW was able to get its fast break going. The result: drive, layup, layup and one, 3-pointer, dunk, 3-pointer, free throw, transition 3-pointer.
Just about every Husky got in the act, with Isaiah Thomas supplying most of the scoring (he finished with 19 points, 17 after halftime) and Venoy Overton the passing (seven assists).
“They outhustled us, they outrebounded us,” said Koprivica, who had his first career double-double, with 13 points (all in the first half) and 11 rebounds. “Our goal was to control the defensive boards and not let them run.”
At halftime, each team had 22 rebounds. The final tally: UW 52, WSU 38. Pondexter had 12 rebounds and razor-thin wing Justin Holiday added 10.
Casto, usually WSU’s force inside, played 23 foul-plagued minutes, scored four points and grabbed two rebounds.
Holiday played a role in shadowing Thompson, who tied a season-low with seven points on a season-worst 2 of 15 from the floor, 1 of 6 beyond the arc.
Washington 92, Washington St. 64
Percentages: FG 32.3%, FT 52.9%. 3-Point Goals: 6-20, 30.0% (Koprivica 3-6, Moore 0-2, Thames 2-3, Thompson 1-6, Motum 0-1, Allen 0-1, Lodwick 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 5 (Casto 2). Turnovers: 14 (Moore 8). Steals: 4 (Thames 2). Technical Fouls: Thames, Xavier.
Percentages: FG 47.1%, FT 69.7%. 3-Point Goals: 5-16, 31.3% (Thomas 3-6, Pondexter 0-1, Overton 0-3, Suggs 1-2, Turner 1-4). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 6 (Bryan-Amaning 3). Turnovers: 9 (Thomas, Gaddy 2). Steals: 6 (Holiday, Overton 2). Technical Fouls: Pondexter, Quincy.
Halftime–Washington State 40, Washington 36. A–10,000.