BERKELEY – Washington State needed a Pac-10 road win.
Klay Thompson did everything he could to steal them one.
The 6-foot-6 junior scored 36 points and assisted on 10 more, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Cougars past the Cal Bears on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion.
Using a quick six points early in overtime and a career-high 30 points from freshman Allen Crabbe, the Bears survived with a 88-81 win.
Thompson’s effort wasn’t enough because, after pulling up and draining a 26-footer with 13.2 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 74 and then making a saving defensive play on the other end, Thompson didn’t get a shot in the extra period.
“The game plan was to get Klay the ball,” said DeAngelo Casto of the overtime. “He was hot and he had carried the team to an overtime, so we tried to stay with what was working.”
But with Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith fighting through screens and bodying him up after he got the ball, all Thompson could do in overtime was assist on a Patrick Simon 3-pointer that cut the Bears’ (9-7 overall, 2-2 in Pac-10 play) six-point lead to 82-79 with 1:57 left.
With the 6,903 in attendance groaning, the Cougars put together two stops, sandwiched around two Reggie Moore free throws – WSU was 12 of 13 from the line – and had one last chance to take a lead with a little more than a minute left.
But Gutierrez, the victim of Thompson’s quick hands at the end of regulation that forced a fumble and a well-off-the-mark wild shot, came up with the big play.
He stripped Thompson near the top of the key, forced a turnover and earned free throws on the other end. He made both and that was that.
“We tried to box-and-one on Klay and they ended up standing around a little bit,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “He had to be getting tired; he was running everywhere to get shots.”
“I made some mental mistakes at the end,” said Thompson, who played 38 minutes despite foul trouble. “That was a tough one to handle.”
It may not have been if WSU (12-5, 2-3) had started faster.
And, for the third time this year, the Cougars started without their 6-foot-8 center, Casto. But he wasn’t missed as WSU jumped to 5-0 and 7-2 leads.
However, the Cougars were playing a step slow and Cal, led by Crabbe, who would finish 10 of 15 from the floor, 4 of 6 from long range, finally started to take advantage.
“Allen isn’t going to (score 30) every night,” Montgomery said, but if you don’t guard him he is capable of making shots.”
With Faisal Aden on him, Crabbe did just that early on, hitting four consecutive 3-pointers as Cal pulled away.
Ten consecutive points that stretched into a 23-9 run boosted the Bears to a 34-20 lead with 5:22 to the half. Only Thompson, who had 13 at intermission, kept WSU within 10 at intermission.
“It’s weird, because sometimes you just start off slow,” Casto said of the sluggish first 20 minutes.
But they didn’t start the second half that way.
After Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, scored to make the lead 12 (44-32), WSU rode Thompson and Moore back, finally tying the game at 66 on a Marcus Capers put-back dunk with 7:09 left.
From there, the teams traded baskets until Thompson hit a 22-footer with 3:50 remaining, putting WSU up 71-70, the Cougars’ first lead since early in the game.
But, just like last season here, WSU went into a scoring drought down the stretch. Unlike that game, however, the Bears didn’t pull away, mixing turnovers with missed shots to keep the Cougars close.
“The biggest problem we had tonight was starting flat,” said Casto.