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Tuesday, August 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Defense lets WSU down


COUGARS

It's getting late. Read on for my unedited game story.
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• Here's the game story, along with some web-only notes …

STANFORD – For Washington State men's basketball team to be successful, especially on the road in the Pac-10, the Cougars' defense has to be, as coach Tony Bennett calls it, "hard-nosed and sound."

They were neither Thursday night in Maples Pavilion and the result was a 65-54 Stanford victory.

The loss, before 6,887, drops the Cougars to 4-6 in Pac-10 play (12-10 overall) and into a three-way tie for seventh with the Cardinal and Oregon State.

"Our defense let us down," Bennett said after Stanford (14-6 overall) shot 54.8 percent for the game and a season-high 69.2 (9 of 13) from beyond the arc.

Bennett's assessment was echoed by his players, with Daven Harmeling saying "if I had to throw a percentage on it, 80 to 90 percent was our fault," and Aron Baynes adding, "that's our fault," when asked about Stanford's torrid (12 of 20) second-half shooting.

"We broke down and didn't play the tough 'd' we needed to," said Baynes, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds but also had six turnovers, many of them when he was doubled in the post.

With the defense struggling – Stanford was the first team this year to shoot better than 50 percent against WSU and its 3-point shooting percentage easily eclipsed UCLA's 9-of-16 effort – the Cougars needed their offense to step up.

And, for the first 15 minutes, it did, powered by Klay Thompson's outside shooting.

The freshman attacked Anthony Goods and Landry Fields aggressively, scoring half of the Cougars first 20 points. But WSU, which jumped out to a 7-2 lead and led by as many as eight (15-7) in the half, stagnated late and Stanford roared back to take a 29-28 halftime lead.

It was senior Lawrence Hill, coming off a three-point game at UCLA, who carried the Cardinal, scoring 11 first-half points. He finished with 20 on 8 of 9 from the floor.

"When we were down early, he really stepped it up," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said.

As did Will Paul, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center who came off the bench to score six first-half points and finish with a career-high 13, including 3 of 3 from beyond the arc. Many of Paul's looks came courtesy of Goods' passes, as the senior finished with a career-high seven assists.

"He's a good shooter from behind the arc," Dawkins said of Paul's shooting, before talking about Goods' passing. "Anthony was the focal point of their defense and he was able to find the open guy."

Paul's shooting was no surprise to WSU, which worked on covering the pick-and-pop play throughout walk-through Friday.

"We knew he could shoot it like that, we scouted him before," said Thompson, who finished with 18 points. "They were getting a lot of open looks. They're a good shooting team, we knew that."

And Thompson knows WSU isn't the same offensive team without Taylor Rochestie on the floor.

Rochestie, who had just two points in the first 20 minutes, picked up a cheap foul – his second – in the backcourt near the end of the first half, and then another early in the second half, forcing Bennett to sit him for 5 minutes.

When he left WSU trailed 34-32. When he returned it was 48-38. Rochestie finished with seven points and five assists, fouling out with 1:13 remaining.

"It always will," cause them to struggle on offense, Thompson said of Rochestie being on the bench, "because he's our senior leader and our point guard. He's really experienced, but even with Taylor out, we should still be able to hold our ground."

They couldn't.

The loss, and the effort expended in the defeat, seemed to claw at the Cougars, especially Harmeling.

"I don't have any explanation, we were flat," Harmeling said. "They were hungry. We were the opposite of that.

"It's embarrassing. It's painful. The whole season is just painful."

NOTES: DeAngelo Casto made his second start tonight and showed flashes, scoring four points and grabbing six rebounds. But Bennett pointed out his and Thompson's defensive lapses in the second half. Though he added "the older kids were no gems either." ... Harmeling said the Cougars basically have to win out if the want postseason play. "We've dug ourselves a huge hole," he said. ... Goods had 13 points, but he was 5 of 12 from the floor, really struggling while Rochestie guarded him. ... WSU hit four of its first five 3-pointers, but finished 4 of 10. ... Nik Koprivica was 2 of 3 from the floor, had three assists and picked up two offensive fouls. ... Thompson is 22 of 22 from the free throw line this year. ... Rochestie missed some of Tuesday's practice with a sore back, but practiced Wednesday and was fine at walk through. Asked if he was affected by that, Bennett said, "I don't think so."

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• That's it for now. We'll be back in the morning. Till then …




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Vince Grippi
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