PULLMAN – On a Saturday night when it seemed Klay Thompson needed to come up big, it turned out he didn’t really have to.
All he really had to do was hit one 12-foot step-back jumper.
But, like 11 of his shots before it, this one with about 3 seconds left wouldn’t fall either.
And, as the ball was batted around, time expired on the Cougars, as Arizona raced out of Beasley Coliseum with a crucial 65-63 Pac-10 Conference victory before 8,850 in attendance.
The loss dropped Washington State to 14-6 overall and evened its Pac-10 record at 4-4. The Wildcats, who lost a first-place showdown Thursday at Washington, leave the state 16-4, 5-2.
“We had the ball in the hands of the person we wanted to have it in,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “He had a chance to get the ball in the key and take a shot he usually makes. But it didn’t drop.”
“You always want the ball in your best playmaker’s (hands),” said DeAngelo Casto, who battled Arizona star Derrick Williams all night and earned a draw in the scoring column at least, as each had 17 points.
“You have confidence in him early in the game, you have confidence in the middle of the game, why not have the confidence in him at the end of the game?”
That’s despite Thompson’s poorest shooting night of the season – he was 4 of 16 from the field, 1 of 7 from beyond the arc – coming in a faceoff of two players expected to be in the running for Pac-10 player of the year.
The nine points marked the first time this year Thompson, averaging 22.9 coming in and shooting 47.4 percent from the floor, didn’t hit double figures. Not even a game-high seven assists and a team-high eight rebounds could overcome it.
Still, despite Thompson’s off night, despite a similar performance from second-leading scorer Faisal Aden, 2 of 7 from the field after missing Thursday’s win over Arizona State, and Reggie Moore, also 2 of 7, and despite one of WSU’s worst free-throw shooting nights (9 of 17), the Cougars had a shot.
“I thought our guys hung in and battled all game long,” Bone said for that’s what it was.
It was for Casto all night, trying to keep the 6-foot-8, 241-pound Williams off the glass – he didn’t, as Williams finished with 19, nine on the offensive glass – and off the line – that was tough too, as the Pac-10 leader in free throws attempted shot 13, making eight.
And it was for WSU down the stretch.
After leading by 12 in the first half, the Cougars struggled to halftime and UA grabbed a 32-31 lead.
Then, after WSU built a 45-37 lead with 12 minutes left, Arizona coach Sean Miller battled for his team, earning a technical foul after Williams’ shot was blocked by Marcus Capers.
Thompson, who had hit 37 of his last 38 free throws, and 17 straight, stepped to the line alone.
He missed both. And Arizona took off.
A 10-2 run, the last three by Jesse Perry from 22 feet, tied it at 47. It went back and forth, with Williams trying to muscle inside with 3:35 left and the score tied at 52.
Another scrum and Williams hit the floor, victim of a Thompson foul, his fourth. But the officiating crew checked the video monitor, changed the foul to Capers and called it intentional.
So Williams stepped to the line and missed both.
But Arizona got the ball, Kyle Fogg scored on the inbounds play and UA never trailed again.
“I’m just glad they don’t look at every single foul and then decide what kind of foul it is,” Bone said.
“There was no confusion at all. I knew I had fouled him,” Capers admitted. “I wasn’t trying to hurt him or nothing, but at the time we said if we were going to foul him, we were going to foul hard.”
Every time WSU got close after that, Jamelle Horne would stick a 3-pointer, two in the final 2:18, and WSU would fall further back. Horne’s second, from 23 feet with 1:39 remaining, was the killer, Casto said.
“Just call them daggers. They just dig,” he said. “Especially that one that felt like Abe (Lodwick) was there. But that’s what happens when you let a shooter get going.”
Something Arizona, which leads the Pac-10 in 3-point shooting percentage defense, never did. WSU was 4 of 20 from beyond the arc, better than only the Kansas State loss.
Still Fogg, who spent much of the night on Thompson, left the door open when he missed two free throws with 15.8 seconds left. With no time outs, WSU asked Thompson to step up.
He got in the key, spun and separated himself from Fogg. He rose up, but the jumper missed on the right side, bounced around and, by the time Aden corralled it, time had expired.
“We didn’t make free throws, which we usually do,” Bone said. “We didn’t make 3s. We usually shoot a way better percentage, then we shot tonight, especially Klay and Faisal.
“Their physicality wore us down.”