PULLMAN – There’s nothing more dynamic in college basketball than a high-flying, power-filled dunk from someone on the home team.
Unless it’s four of them in less than five minutes.
That’s exactly what Washington State put together Thursday night, using them to ignite a late-game surge and hold off Oregon State 84-70 at Friel Court.
“It gave us a lot a momentum,” said Klay Thompson, who split the four with DeAngelo Casto. “Any time you can get a couple dunks, it’s good, because it gets the crowd into it.”
And the Cougars needed the momentum swing to snap a five-game Pac-10 losing streak that dated back to last season.
After building a 19-point first-half lead, they were in danger of melting again in the second half, this time against Oregon State’s pressure.
The Beavers, who trailed by 12 at the half, cut the lead to four, 61-57, on Ahmad Stark’s lone 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 33 seconds left.
The crowd, listed at 5,849 but without the usual cadre of students, implored the Cougars to hold on.
WSU, which lit up Oregon State’s 2-3 matchup zone from beyond the arc with seven first-half 3-pointers, was without an answer when the Beavers (7-7 overall and 2-1 in Pac-10 play) switched to a 1-3-1 trap in the final 5 minutes of the half.
“Early in the game we played with confidence,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “Oregon State did a good job of taking that away when they went to their 1-3-1.”
And that doubt continued up until Stark’s 3.
That’s when Bone made the subtlest of changes, a change he hadn’t planned on and WSU hadn’t practiced. But it led to the crowd-pleasing slams and, ultimately, to victory.
Thompson moved from out front to the middle of WSU’s attack and Bone told the 6-foot-6 junior to roam around and create. He did both.
A pass to Casto for a dunk. Another pass leading to another Casto dunk. After Thompson scored on a fastbreak layin, he cut to the hoop, caught Brock Motum’s pass, and dunked. A 23-footer from the right corner and it was 72-59, OSU coach Craig Robinson called time, and WSU (11-4, 1-2) had its first win since its tournament runner-up finish in Hawaii.
“(Thompson) had played a lot of minutes up top, where they crowd you, and we felt we had to get him out of there,” Bone said. “But we didn’t want to hide him in the corner.”
Thompson, who finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds (his second consecutive double-double and the third in his career) and five assists, credited the change for helping kill the Beavers’ rally.
“It gave me a lot more freedom,” he said. “I just had to find a lot of gaps and they would collapse (on me). All I had to do was hit an open cutter.”
“I just told him, go wherever you want,” Bone said. “Just get open.”
Another change, giving point guard Reggie Moore a rest and bringing in freshman Dre’ Winston in, also contributed, with Winston picking up a key charge with WSU up six and assisting on one of the dunks.
“Even though he only played three minutes, he had a big impact on the game,” Bone said of Winston.
So did Moore, who is facing two misdemeanor marijuana charges, the news of which came out this week. He started and contributed 11 points and nine assists, though he and Thompson combined for 10 of WSU’s 19 turnovers.
Marcus Capers was the target of OSU’s fouls down the stretch – he was also intentionally fouled on a late-game dunk attempt – and he responded by hitting 8 of 12 free throws, part of 12 points.
Jared Cunningham, as he’s done lately, paced the Beavers with 18 points, but was just 6 of 16 from the floor as OSU shot 33.8 percent against WSU’s mixture of zone and man defenses.
No Beaver shot better than 50 percent from the field, though Oregon State did grab 18 offensive rebounds – 13 in the second half – and had 17 more shot attempts.