WSU men can’t quite make up early deficit
PULLMAN – It was fitting Jeremy Green got the last word in.
After all, the Stanford junior guard’s play told the story Thursday night – from first to last chapter.
It was Green, basically AWOL in the first meeting between Washington State and the Cardinal in Northern California, who powered Stanford’s hot start that led to a 19-point first-half lead.
And it was Green who sealed the Cardinal’s 75-62 victory before 6,517 at Friel Court after the Cougars had crawled back to pull within one before fading down the stretch.
Asked if it was a statement holding his follow-through high after a 24-footer sent the fans to the exits with 1 minute, 47 seconds left, Green smiled.
“It felt like it,” said the 6-foot-4 junior, whose 24 points topped all scorers and gave him three consecutive games with more than 20. “(The Cougars) were right there. It looked like if they got one more stop they could have been right in the game, just for that last 3 to go down, it was almost like it was the dagger.”
One more stop.
It was impossible to imagine it might come down to that after the first 20 minutes.
“Our defense wasn’t very good and their offense was extremely good,” said WSU coach Ken Bone, whose team opened in the same 2-3 zone that flummoxed the Cardinal in the earlier 61-58 WSU win before switching to a man for the final 36 minutes.
“When a team comes out hits its first seven 3-point attempts, that can be very difficult and deflating,” he added. “And some of those were fairly well-contested, not all of them, but some. They just kind of got on a roll.”
And almost rolled WSU right out of a library-like Beasley Coliseum.
Stanford connected on 14 of its first 21 shots. As Bone said, the Cardinal hit their first seven 3-pointers. Heck, they didn’t commit a turnover until Green stepped on the sideline more than 13 minutes in.
And the result was to be expected, a 45-26 lead with 1:31 left to intermission. Only Reggie Moore’s two free throws 23 seconds later allowed WSU to head up the stairs down 17.
“I think we overlooked our opponent,” said Marcus Capers of the Cardinal, 13-10 overall and tied with WSU at 6-6 in Pac-10 play. “I didn’t expect them to hit their first seven 3s. I don’t think they expected to hit their first seven 3s.”
The Cardinal, a 42 percent shooting team coming in, did and shot 62 percent in the first half.
So Bone kept it simple at halftime.
“Play with energy, play together,” Bone said he told his team.
They did, extending the defense out, forcing turnovers, limiting the Cardinal to one shot, two-thirds of which they missed.
On the other end WSU pushed the ball inside to DeAngelo Casto, who finished most everything but free throws, hitting 10 of 11 shots on the night en route to 22 points.
At 45-30, Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins called time. At 48-41, Green made an acrobatic 5-foot runner with a free throw added on. At 51-45, Dawkins called another timeout. At 51-47 Green nailed one of his five 3-pointers. But nothing stemmed WSU’s momentum.
Until the Cougars pulled with one following a 7-0, 1:21 run that included a Casto layup, Faisal Aden’s lone 3-pointer – he was 1 of 7 – and Brock Motum’s two free throws. It was 56-55, Beasley was rocking and there were almost 9 minutes left to play.
“I really felt like it would come down to the wire,” Bone said.
It didn’t. Maybe making two free throws were a shock to the Cougars’ system – they were 9 of 19 for the game, with Casto missing five and Moore three – but Anthony Brown got away from Aden on the next Cardinal possession, swished a 17-foot jumper and WSU had no further answers.
Aden, Klay Thompson and Abe Lodwick missed, Stanford scored on three of four possessions, built the lead back seven and held it there until Green, who finished 7 of 9 from the floor and 5 of 5 from beyond the arc and the line, put an exclamation point on it.
And all the Cougars were left with was trying to explain the poor effort at the start.
“It’s frustrating,” said Thompson, who hit his first three shots but was 3 of 10 after and finished with 15 points. “We didn’t come out with the energy we needed. Obviously there wasn’t a big crowd, so we’ve just to generate it ourselves somehow.
“When there is an NCAA tournament bid on the line, it’s just inexcusable.”
At 16-8 and two losses in their last three games, the Cougars shouldn’t have any worries about that unless they get hot down the stretch.
“We played like there wasn’t a sense of urgency, which was just a shock,” Bone said. “I mean, we’re trying to get to the NCAA Tournament, we’re trying to finish the season off after … we put ourselves in a good position.”
Now they are in the opposite one.
“Every game is not a must win, but it’s a must effort,” Bone said. “We have to bring it every game to give ourselves a chance to win.”