In some ways maybe it was fitting. Oregon State frittered away a nine-point second-half lead in Corvallis and lost in overtime. Washington State returned the favor and even more so Saturday afternoon, giving up a 13-point, first-half lead with a strikingly lackadaisical second half and losing 54-52. On the link you'll find the unedited version of my game story, along with some web-only notes. Read on.
• Here's the gamer ...
PULLMAN – Washington State's postseason basketball hopes may have bled out all over Friel Court on Saturday.
If they did, it was a death caused by a hundred back cuts.
Oregon State ran their Princeton-style offense to near perfection in the second half, overcoming WSU's 12-point halftime lead and slipping out of Beasley Coliseum with a 54-52 win before a stunned 7,452.
"Our defense broke down," admitted WSU coach Tony Bennett. "We try to really work hard and pride ourselves on taking away the lane and absorbing back cuts and not letting guys get all the way to the rim. That really wasn't present."
"We're a defensive team," said senior Taylor Rochestie. "We think we're a defensive team. To come out and give up the points that we gave up, (34) points (in the second half) and to only score 20 points.
"When you give them layups and you struggle to get shots, you're going to lose the game."
The Beavers, who snapped a five-game losing streak to WSU, have bought into first-year coach Craig Robinson's philosophy. They spread the court, cut hard to the hoop and try to get the defense on its heels.
For 20 minutes, they failed.
The Cougars, 13-12 overall and 5-8 in Pac-10 play, stifled all but one OSU first-half cut – a Rickey Clatt reverse layup with 1 minute, 50 seconds left to intermission.
WSU's aggressiveness on the defensive end led to the same on the offensive end. The Cougars, behind Klay Thompson's 10 points, hit 13 of 23 shots, led by as many as 13 points, and took a 32-20 lead into the locker room.
Where they left their intensity.
"The way we came out to start the second half, not helping on a cross screen, giving them an easy layup," was hard for Bennett to explain. But he tried.
"Some guys just not playing with a sense of urgency that first few minutes (and) all of a sudden it's a five-point game."
Roeland Schaftenaar, who missed all six of his first-half shots, hit two quick buckets and Oregon State (11-13, 5-8) got rolling.
"That first play they set a simple guard-on-big screen and we just didn't help," Bennett said. "Then the second time they did it, we helped and Aron got hung up on the screen and didn't get out to him.
"That was a couple right away, a couple turnovers, a couple back cuts, a couple going under screens. ... Just some little things that all of a sudden watered us down."
But, after the Beavers got within 34-29, WSU seemed to wrest control with two buckets – including a 3-pointer – by Thompson, who finished with a game-high 20, and another long-range jumper by Rochestie.
That put WSU up 42-31 with 14:39 left.
Over the next 9:29, the Cougars would score a single point, on DeAngelo Casto's free throw at the 6:40 mark. They missed 11 shots, including four in-a-row by Rochestie and two close-in attempts by Aron Baynes.
"They put more pressure up front on the guards," Thompson said. "I just thought we were a little bit hesitant. We just need to be more decisive. We didn't come out with as much aggressiveness."
And Oregon State did, back cutting its way to 18 points, 12 of those by leading scorer Calvin Haynes, a 6-foot-2 guard who comes off the bench.
"He stepped up and made the plays when they needed to be made," Bennett said of Haynes, who finished with a team-high 17, four of them coming a back cuts in the 18-1 run.
"There's no excuse for us getting back cut," said Caleb Forrest, who had six points and five rebounds. "When they do that, then we're playing off them a little bit, and that's giving them 3-pointers."
Haynes had three of those as well, but it was Rickey Claitt's with 4 minutes left that really hurt. It put OSU up 52-45. That seven-point lead held up despite a NBA-depth 3-pointer by Thompson with 1:30 left that cut the lead to two.
But, though WSU got a stop when Seth Tarver missed a jumper, Rochestie, who finished 2 of 11 from the floor – he was 0 for 1 in the WSU's productive first half – with five points, four turnovers and four assists, couldn't convert a runner with 9 seconds left and Schaftenaar, a 63 percent free-throw shooter, hit two to clinch it.
"Offensively, we executed better than the first half," said Robinson, whose team won for the first time in the Pac-10's second half. "They did a great job of keeping us from doing what we wanted to do.
"But it was a game of imposing wills. They imposed their will on us in the first half and we imposed our will on them in the second half."
Rochestie saw it differently. He blamed the guy in the mirror.
"I played a horrible game," said the senior, who came in averaging 12.8 points a game. "I turned the ball over, couldn't make a shot. When you have a senior point guard, playing the way I did today, you're not going to win. It's a simple as that."
But he wasn't the only one.
Baynes, playing just 26 minutes because, according to Bennett, he struggled defensively, also had just five points, 7.4 below his average.
"Those two, they didn't play their best," Bennett said.
"Instead of making aggressive, sound plays," Rochestie said, "we turned the ball over, we missed shots, got back cut ... basically every single thing coach told us would hurt us ... we let happen. If you do that, you're going to lose the game."
As the game slipped away, the Cougars also knew their postseason hopes were slipping with it.
"We had to win this game to have any chance of keeping our postseason alive, really," Forrest said. "And now, with this loss, it's just ... it sinks our hopes a little bit."
NOTES: The Beavers had just four turnover, two of those coming in their first three possessions. They didn't have one in the final 16:32. WSU had just nine. ... Baynes looked to be fouled attempting to score as the clock ran out in the first half, but no call was made. ... Marcus Capers played 29 minutes and had six points, including a base-line drive to cut the OSU lead to 49-45 with 5:10 remaining. ... OSU had five offensive rebounds in the second half, including two in the final 4 minutes. The first led directly to Claitt's 3-pointer. The other allowed the Beavers to run 30 seconds off the clock. ... Haynes had a chance to ice it with 2 seconds left but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Baynes grabbed the rebound but couldn't do anything with it.
• That's all for now. We'll be back in the morning with our usual day-after post. Till then …