The long and winding road for Washington State continues tomorrow afternoon at USC, but before we get to the Galen Center – I wonder if the windows on the north side will have sunlight streaming in at that time of day? – let's touch on last night's second-half debacle at UCLA. There's more, so read on.
• Washington State: I was thinking about this as I was driving back to the hotel early this morning. This has been a tough road trip for the Cougars, with a couple close wins possibly masking the way they are playing. It opened with the overtime victory in Santa Clara, a tough place to play, sure, but the Cougars didn't play all that well. Then there was the win over a hobbled and dissension-ridden Mississippi State team. The blowout of Baylor in the first half was followed by the Bears nearly rallying all the way back in the second. Butler got over the hump against WSU in the second half, blowing the Cougars' doors off. ... And then there was last night. Other than a short stretch late in the first half, when WSU got into a transition game with the Bruins, the Cougars didn't have much fire. Before that stretch, the game was played at a low level by both teams. UCLA didn't pick up its play until after halftime, and played well until the end. The Cougars petered out after the 4-minute run and never regained a spark. Is it fatigue? Is it jet lag? Heck, did they pick up bed bugs somewhere? I asked coach Ken Bone last night if the long trip showed in the second half and here's his answer: "I don't know. I don't know exactly how you gauge that. But, in my opinion, it caught up with us, because we came out just really, really flat in the second half. Even the end of the first half. I think we were up (37-26) and there was a time there at the end of the first half, beginning of the second half it just didn't seem like we had the energy. That was unfortunate. Obviously, you can't just totally chalk it up to 'OK, that's because we've been on the road,' but there's a chance that's why. We've been on the road a long time." I asked pretty much the same question of Klay Thompson and he had a different take. "Ya, that's right," he said when informed he hadn't been at home in more than 10 days, "but that's fine. That's part of college basketball." I would like to know your thoughts. It's obvious to me the Cougars are a little road-weary and that takes a mental toll as much as a physical one. When you are at home, the crowd can help you through tough spots (Bone talked about that same last night as well in connection with UCLA's second-half run, saying it's much easier to sustain a run at home than on the road). On the road, you have to bring your own enthusiasm and that can be tough game after game. A weekend series, sure. Six games in 12 days? That's a tougher mental challenge. ... And that's about all the extra stuff I have today, being the game got over right at our print deadline. ... On to the links. We had our story, of course, (you can read it all here) and there's this story from Ben Bolch in the Los Angeles Times. By the way, the quote from Thompson in that story was supplied by UCLA and it's not exactly right. I took mine directly from the tape. He feels he needs to pull up more. The Daily News add this story. I love the headline. It is damn accurate. ...CougCenter had this coverage and Cougfan adds this piece.
• Around the Pac-10: Basketball conference play opened up only in Los Angeles, with the Huskies holding on to defeat USC in overtime. ... The Oregon schools hosts the Arizona schools starting tonight, and the Register Guard has an OSU preview centered around the improved play of sophomore Jared Cunningham. The paper also has an Oregon preview. ... The Oregonian has this on the Beavers. ... The games this weekend will still be at Mac Court. ... I missed this conference preview yesterday. ... OK, now to football. ... The Huskies play tonight in the Holiday Bowl, where they will try to erase the memories of the regular-season rout by Nebraska. ... Speaking of routs, that's what happened to Arizona again. The Wildcats finish the season with six consecutive losses after the 36-10 loss to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. ... A couple of Stanford stories, one about Jim Harbaugh and one about his defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. There's a lot of talk around UCLA Fangio is Rick Neuheisel's No. 1 choice for defensive coordinator.
• That's all for this morning. We'll be back after WSU's practice with a bit more. Until then ...