PULLMAN – The memory is still raw.
And the Washington State Cougars will have Saturday to relive it. Then Saturday night, when the Oregon Ducks visit Beasley Coliseum in a Pac-10 game, they’ll have a chance to wipe it away.
New Year’s Eve 2009. Oregon opening conference play in Pullman. DeAngelo Casto scoring what seemed to be the game-winning basket with .3 seconds left in overtime.
A whistle. A discussion. A ruling. Two free throws for a celebration technical. The Ducks could tie. They did and went on to win 91-89 in double overtime, the first of three times Oregon would defeat WSU last season.
But it’s that first one, when the Cougars’ bench exploded after Casto’s seeming game-winner as the clock was expiring, leading to the technical, that will motivate the Cougars tonight.
“Ya, just because losing at home last year on a fluke call with .3 seconds left, that left a bad taste in our mouth for the whole year,” said Klay Thompson, who had 33 points in the defeat. “We still remember that like it was yesterday. So we won’t forget about it and we’ll play hard on Saturday.”
“It felt like it was taken away from us,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “I think that’s the feeling amongst our team members, that it was our game but it wasn’t. At the end they had more points when it was all said and done and we got the loss.
“It felt like a win and yet it wasn’t.”
Asked if he felt they owed the Ducks one, Casto said he saw it another way.
“I feel like they owe us,” Casto said.
Though the bill would have to be paid with a different cast.
It’s a markedly different Oregon (7-8 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-10 after its 87-69 defeat at UW on Thursday) team this year, with a new coach – former Creighton coach Dana Altman replaced Ernie Kent after last season – and notorious Cougar-killer Tajuan Porter graduated.
Still around are leading scorer and rebounder, senior Joevan Catron (16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game), and sophomore E.J. Singler (11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds). It was Singler who helped knock the Cougars out of the Pac-10 tournament last year with a game-tying tip-in at the end of regulation of a game Oregon won in overtime.
“They’re a different team, we’re the same team and we’ve gotten better,” starting guard Marcus Capers said. “Hopefully the outcome will be a lot better.”
The Cougars’ outcome at home Thursday – an 84-70 win over Oregon State – was a lot better than the opening road trip in Los Angeles that resulted in two defeats.
Thompson led the way with 29 points against OSU – he’s averaging 22.7 per game, 10th in the nation – but three other Cougars – Faisal Aden (15), Capers (12) and Reggie Moore (11) – were in double figures. WSU (11-4 overall) won the rebound battle and had 18 assists.
The most important aspect of Thursday’s game for Bone?
“It was a win,” he said. “Simply, a win. No matter how we played, how good or bad, however it ended up, at the end we had more points. That was critical.”
Though there were only 5,849 at Friel Court for the Beavers, there should be a lot more Saturday night with school starting Monday. And the Cougars expect a lift from their peers returning.
“With the students coming back,” Capers said, “it will help us out a lot.”