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WSU fights past UI


COUGARS

We're done with the game story. UI coach Don Verlin wasn't too happy with his team and ripped into them pretty good in his postgame comments. Ken Bone? He was pleased as you might expect. Read on.
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• Here's the game story in its unedited glory ...

PULLMAN – It wasn't like Klay Thompson was slacking off. At halftime, he had 15 points and had helped Washington State University to an eight-point lead.

But he hadn't done what the 7,285 in Beasley Coliseum usually expect. The 6-foot-6 sophomore hadn't hit a 3-pointer.

It took 11 seconds in the second half to correct that.

Thompson's 22-footer from the right wing ignited a 14-point run and propelled the Cougars to a 76-64 victory over the University of Idaho on Wednesday night, the seventh consecutive WSU win in a series that's been played every year since 1906.

"It was a little bit of a wrinkle on what we usually run," said WSU coach Ken Bone of Thompson's first 3-pointer, "and they bit on it. We got a good screen, Klay was open and I don't think it surprised anybody, even though he missed his first four in the first half, that he buried it."

It certainly didn't surprise Idaho coach Don Verlin, who emerged from the visitors' locker room to rip into his team's effort, especially guarding Thompson.

"I didn't think we played hard," a fuming Verlin said. "That was the thing I was most disappointed in was our effort tonight. I thought we didn't compete from the start.

"There's no excuse for it. ... I'm embarrassed how we played tonight."

Thompson hit 9 of 21 shots to finish right at his season average with 25 points.

"Horrible," is how Verlin described UI's defense on Thompson. "He got any shot he wanted, he went wherever he wanted ... and it showed by his shooting stats."

"It was a lot different then the last two games," said Thompson, who was hounded into a combined 11-of-36 shooting and 12 turnovers in losses to Gonzaga and Kansas State. "I don't want to be mean or anything, but I think those last two teams might have just been a little better."

Even though Thompson had eight points in the game-deciding stretch, he wasn't alone – all night or during the run.

Abe Lodwick, who set the screen that freed Thompson for his first 3, added two 3-pointers – his only baskets of the night – and DeAngelo Casto a follow of his own miss as WSU (7-2) seemingly got to every loose ball.

After UI (5-3) broke the Cougars' run on Mac Hobson's inside score with 17 minutes, 1 second left, WSU put together a 7-0 streak that left it with a 57-30 lead, its largest of the night. Over 6 minutes, 23 seconds, the Cougars had outscored Idaho 21-2.

"Threes," Bone answered when asked how the Cougars put together their run. "We racked up a lot of points real quick by hitting 3s."

Verlin had a different view.

"We came out with no energy," he said, "and missed about four defensive assignments and didn't rebound the ball."

The Cougars led 63-39 with 8:49 remaining, but Idaho put together a 9-0 run of its own to get within 15 with 6:25 left. The Cougar defense tightened up, however, and Reggie Moore, who finished with 12, ended the WSU drought with a drive with 4:14 left.

The Vandals pulled with seven with a little over a minute left on Jeff Ledbetter's fourth – and last – 3-pointer, but could get no closer as WSU hit enough free throws down the stretch.

Casto added another double-double, pulling down 14 rebounds – WSU outrebounded its neighbors from Moscow 44-35, including 16 on the offensive glass – to go with 13 points.

Luiz Toledo, a 6-8, 225-pound inside force would have helped on the boards, but the sophomore from Brazil, averaging 5.9 rebounds a game, did not play. Verlin said it was due to a decision by the training staff but wouldn't elaborate.

Kashif Watson scored eight of UI's first nine points before finishing with a team-high 16.

The Cougars tried to disrupt UI's offense early with ball pressure, but defensive mistakes led to a handful of baskets.

Watson was the recipient in many cases, scoring eight points in the game's first 4 minutes.

After the first media time out, WSU straightened out the half-court defense, but the Vandals kept pushing, getting good looks in transition. Only Thompson's ability to shake Watson and score kept the Cougars even.

Until they started playing defense like they did against Idaho last season, when they held the Vandals to 31 percent shooting in a 51-44 win.

With the score tied at 19 with 7:22 before the half, WSU limited UI to 3 of 9 shooting until halftime.

Though the Cougars weren't much better, hitting less than half their shots in the final stretch, they were much more aggressive, grabbing four offensive rebounds.

As a result WSU scored on all but two possessions and built an 11-point lead. Idaho's Ledbetter nailed a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left before intermission and the shot clock winding down to cut into the margin, but WSU still led 36-28 at the half.

And then came the flood.

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• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning with more. Until then ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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