The nonconference portion of Washington State's basketball season is now officially behind us. The Cougars' record after a dozen games? 10-2, with the losses at Gonzaga (ranked) and Kansas State (ranked even higher). After last night's win over LSU, only the second BCS school they played (Kansas State was the other), they can take a few days off for Christmas – "I'm excited to go home," Klay Thompson said – and then get ready for Pac-10 play. For more on last night's 72-70 overtime win in Seattle, and some links from around the Pac-10, read on.
• Washington State: Just a quick warning. Thanks to overtime, we were pressed a little harder against the S-R deadline, so we didn't have as much time as we would have liked to talk with players. The result, less postgame comments to pass along. ... Where to begin? Should we start with the tremendous effort LSU's Tasmin Mitchell put on the floor in the first half? The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Mitchell was a beast on the offensive glass in the first 20 minutes, grabbing six offensive rebounds and single-handedly (11 points and one official assist) keeping LSU in the game. When WSU came to double, he built space and found the open guy. I asked Bone afterward what the difference was after halftime, when WSU held him to seven points and six rebounds and the answer appears below. But I will add that most of the final 25 minutes, Nik Koprivica guarded the bigger Mitchell, mainly by himself. He got help, of course, but rarely did WSU double team, its usual MO with post threats. ... Not only did Koprivica slow Mitchell down, he also contributed offensively, once again hitting double figures with 11 points, including 6 of 7 from the line. The senior also added six rebounds, second only to DeAngelo Casto for WSU. ... Reggie Moore admitted afterward he was tired (he played all 45 minutes; Klay Thompson played 44) and both of turnovers came late in regulation, when he didn't seem to have as much of a burst. But he did will himself into the lane in the game-tying final possession, allowing the Cougars their chance in overtime. ... LSU's Aaron Dotson hit some key baskets – his jumper to start OT gave the Tigers their last lead – but the game plan was to try to entice him to shoot the 3-pointer. The freshman from Rainier Beach obliged, taking seven and making three, still above his season average of 13 percent. In fact, the three 3-pointers doubled his output for the season. Dotson finished 4 of 12 from the field. ... The Cougars played zone more last night than I've seen in four years of covering them. It was mostly 2-3, but there was an occasional triangle-and-two scheme thrown in. ... Though Bo Spencer missed a possible game-winner at the end of overtime, the junior guard hit two 30-foot 3-point shots, the only two long-range jumpers he made in 11 attempts. Though he was 6 of 20 from the floor, he did make 9 of 10 free throws and finished with 23 points. ... One last word on the officiating. I've been covering college basketball since 1980 and last night's crew did as poor a job as I've seen. They anticipated calls (a no-no), they were out of position a few times (another no-no) and had some real rabbit ears (a real no-no). Both technical fouls should have been ignored, with Bone's a real piece of work by Mike Scyphers. After Spencer had carried the ball for about the third time, Bone complained to Scyphers, who indicated, from the other end of the court that Spencer had kept his hand above the ball (not sure that was the case, but fine). Bone said something about, by rule, what Spencer was doing was a carry and Scyphers should check the rulebook, though as loud as it was in Key Arena, I'm not sure the official could hear Bone. I'm sure he heard Bone's next comment, though, issued when the teams came back to the WSU side of the floor. "They must have changed the rulebook," Bone said as Scyphers ran by. No cussing, nothing personal. Boom, a T. The two ensuing free throws by Spencer tied the game at 55. ... Afterward, Bone admitted he should have been smarter, but I'm not sure he could have avoided getting a technical after Johnson, doing nothing more than his usual chipping, had been assessed one early in the second half. Once Johnson had been tagged, it seemed like only a matter of time before Bone would be given one to balance the ledger. ... Finally, a word about the crowd. Though it is hard to be sure, that might have been the largest crowd WSU has played in front of in the state of Washington. The game was considered a neutral-site contest, but 15,000 of the 15,341 had to be cheering for the Cougars. ... Now here's the links. ... We had our story in the paper and on the blog. ... The Times' Bud Withers wrote a column that I can't find, but also had this right-at-end-of-the-game story. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick had a game story in the News Tribune and a column on Cougfan. ... The Louisiana papers did not send anyone for the late-starting game.
• OK, now some of the comments ...
• Moore on playing at the Key: "I thought it was great. It was a lot of fun just being back home. This crowd was great. It got loud in here, kinda of like Gonzaga. I love playing here. I wish we could play here more."
• Moore on the nature of the game: "It was real physical, but it's the type of game we practice all the time. We're really physical at practice, so it didn't phase me. I'm used to it."
• Thompson on the Cougars improvement: "This team is just trying to work hard every practice and every game. ... We've made a lot of strides. ... People don't know how balanced our team is. Reggie is really good off the dribble and he's a great shooter. DeAngelo is a force in the post. Nik is really playing well. That scoring balance makes us harder to guard."
• Bone on the game: "It wasn't the prettiest game and that's a tribute to LSU. Not that they play ugly basketball, they play good, solid basketball, but they made us look ugly a number of times during the course of the game. Part of that was due to their defense and to the fact Klay wasn't hitting shots. When he doesn't hit shots, it makes our offense look pretty bad."
• Bone on his team: "I think they've grown to be a confident group, a group that believes in themselves and believes in their teammates."
• Bone on Nik: "Nik is really stepping it up as of late. I think he's becoming more and more confident in his play and what's he capable of doing. The first half I thought he was outstanding once he went back in the game. As soon as he got in, he touched it and drove to the rim in a situation where that's really not what we needed. We brought him back out right away, talked to him, and when he went back in, he was very good. His rebounding, defending, sharing the ball, scoring, he did a good job."
• Around the Pac-10: The conference started the football bowl season off with a thud, as Oregon State was walloped by BYU in Las Vegas. ... Back to basketball, UW gave the Pac-10 another victory over a ranked team, stopping Texas A&M at home. ... Oregon barely got past 2-10 Idaho State in Eugene. ... No. 1 Kansas pulled away from Cal late. ... No. 23 Texas Tech got past Stanford with a second-half surge. ... USC earned a win in Hawaii. ... And UCLA, behind Nikola Dragovic, won again, this time in Pauley over Colorado State.
• That's it for this morning. With the holidays coming, we'll only be back if news warrants. Hope all of you have a great time over the next few days wherever you are and whomever you are with. See you, for sure, next week, as WSU gets ready for Oregon on New Year's Eve. Until then …