Cougars join the crowd with upset, Bone’s signature victory
PULLMAN – Go ahead, storm the court. Everyone else has.
Video games don’t deal in as much carnage as what occurred in college basketball’s Top 25 over the weekend. Before sundown Sunday, a dozen teams in the Associated Press poll lost in the previous 30 hours, 10 of them to unranked opponents or a team below them on the list.
Often as not, fans flooded the floor – even those who should be used to beating the best. The biggest upset of the weekend – St. John’s humiliating Duke – would have produced the biggest riot, except you don’t cross the security muscle at Madison Square Garden.
And then the clock struck 13 at Friel Court.
So inevitably, Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore and Faisel Aden and the rest of the Washington State Cougars were engulfed by the wave of students who grudgingly surrendered a Sunday night at the library for the most fun you can have during a Palouse winter without a fake I.D.
The Cougars’ 87-80 beatdown of rival Washington completed the most chaotic weekend of the college season, but it may only be the beginning for Wazzu.
“I think we have a chance to run the table,” said Thompson, a bit cheekily.
“It’s going to be tough, but that’s what we want to do.”
Of course, a few moments later he was saying that, “We just want to stay humble.”
Hey, consistency is for the court. In the interview room, anything goes.
Humility and greatness – or even very goodness – are tough nuts to finesse.
The likelihood of the Cougs winning out in the Pacific-10 Conference, naturally, is more of an unlikelihood. Road stops at UW and Arizona, among others, await. But for the time being, they have what they’ve been missing here in the still-brief Ken Bone era: a signature win.
Yes, they routed Gonzaga at Friel earlier this season, but then the Zags turned out not to be quite as Zag as usual. There was a nice victory over then-15th ranked Baylor in the islands later, but the Bears have gone into hibernation, more or less.
“If they’re the highest ranked team we’ve beat and it’s a conference game,” Bone allowed, “this is probably the biggest win since I’ve been here.”
Well, the Huskies were ranked only 18th – heck, they may move up given all the bloodshed above them in the poll – but you get the idea. Besides, it was Washington, and given that the Huskies didn’t bother to rest their gums in anticipation of performing some of the same old made it all the sweeter, for both the Cougars and 10,579 giddy souls on hand.
The Dawg disdain was for the setting, mind you, not for the opponent.
“This is a special place,” Thompson insisted in rebuttal. “You don’t get a crowd like this in a lot of cities. When you’re the main attraction, it’s pretty special and when we get support like that, we’re hard to beat.
“We won it for them, for Cougar Nation, and it just felt good to beat them because they were talking a lot this weekend.”
Aside from managing their emotions, there were two significant drivers to this victory.
For UW coach Lorenzo Romar, the decider was turnovers – 24 of them, about twice what the Huskies normally have in a game. Combined with their 37 percent shooting, he suggested it might be time to give the Cougars a little credit as more than a shoot-’em-up outfit.
“Sometimes coaches can say, ‘We just didn’t make shots,’ ” Romar said. “Well, we had some pretty good looks, but look what they’ve given up for the year: 38 percent. In league play, 39 percent. That’s just kind of how they’ve been defending the whole year.”
Wazzu’s other trump: poise, toughness – whatever you want to label it.
Four Cougars had four fouls with more than 10 minutes to play, including Thompson and DeAngelo Casto. When Thompson left earlier with his third, Reggie Moore’s 3 and a thunderous dunk actually gave the Cougs their separation points. When the Huskies got an 11-point deficit down to five with nine minutes to go, Moore again struck with two nervy drives for three-point plays.
“We willed this win,” said Moore, whose duel with Seattle rivals Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton was nothing less than a knockout.
It’s easy to forget that only a few short years ago, the Cougars strung together seven straight wins over UW – including the first over ranked Huskies teams since 1976. But go ahead and call this a defining victory because it’s a new regime with a new style.
And a new personality.
“Me and Klay, we’ve been talking about running the table from the beginning of the season,” Moore admitted, “and after every game, win or lose. Because we can. It’s not something that’s far-fetched. It’s possible.”
After this weekend? What isn’t?