Merry Christmas Eve Eve from SeaTac. Sorry I was just too worn out last night to blog after Washington State's easier-than-it-might-seem 67-56 victory over Pepperdine in the seventh Cougar Hardwood Classic, but between the game, the crappy – no other way to put it –conditions in KeyArena and the traffic jam on the way back to the hotel, it just wasn't going to work. So we slept, got up early and headed to the airport to put together a more-detailed-than-usual morning report. And sorry about the whining. Read on.
• Washington State: It's obvious people in Seattle love KeyArena but it's easy to see why the city couldn't keep an NBA team with the place. It's just not up to snuff as a modern facility – at least it wasn't last night. There is just not enough room around the court for all the needs of fans, game personnel, media, all of whom were crowded into too small a space. I really don't think any of the fans on our side of the court really saw the game all that well. I know there was parts of the action that were hard for me to see and I was in front of some people – and to those folks who had to look at the back of my balding head, I am sorry. ... As for the game, it started slowly. If you were following my tweets, you know it was 0-0 at the first media timeout more than four minutes in. Pepperdine was missing contested shots, the Cougars good looks. And that trend continued with one exception. WSU started making shots. When that happened, the Waves were done. For 35 minutes Washington State defended aggressively, fought for rebounds, dealt with ball screens and Pep's flex cuts and stymied the Waves. The last five minutes, the focus disappeared, the energy waned and the lead melted. Still, with an A for the first part, even the F down the stretch couldn't fail the Cougars. ... It looks as if coach Ken Bone has settled on his rotation, with the starting five of Reggie Moore, DaVonté Lacy, Marcus Capers, Brock Motum and Charlie Enquist. Faisal Aden will be the first guy off the bench and be expected to supply points – Bone called him his best scorer, though no one would argue he's the Cougars' most efficient scorer – a role he'll probably relish. Abe Lodwick was the first big, D.J. Shelton the second and Mike Ladd rotated in with the guards. That's nine guys, which is one more than Bone liked to use his first two seasons in Pullman, but might be necessary considering the depth of pretty equal players WSU has. ... Bone also said he would use Dexter Kernich-Drew and Patrick Simon in certain situations – both are good outside shooters – throughout the year. ... The Cougar players get the next few days off. They'll reconvene Monday evening in Pullman, bus up to Spokane on Tuesday and prepare for the Pac-12 opener Thursday night against Oregon. ... Being it's Christmas, some of the Cougars' families are gathering in the Seattle area, hosted by the Enquists. Capers' family came up from Florida to spend Christmas with their son. ... On to the game, with my story in today's S-R. ... There is this gamer from freelancer Howie Stalwick in the News Tribune and one from Bud Withers in the Times. ... Mike Leach spoke last night and you can read what he had to say here in the Times and here on Cougfan. ... The Sporting News rated the college football hires and WSU's was given the top grade. ... We had the news of Washington State's big gift yesterday and ESPN.com's Ted Miller covers it some more today. ... Had this passed along by a reader. The Wall Street Journal asked some fashion experts to rate the newest football uniforms. Washington State's made the "worst" list.
• Around the Pac-12: Stanford has been one of the better conference basketball teams in nonconference play, but the Cardinal's last one of those was awful, as they lost 71-66 at home to a Butler team that struggled against Gonzaga a couple days earlier. ... Colorado picked up a win, 56-51 over Texas Southern. ... Utah was destroyed by in-state rival Weber State, 80-51, the most lopsided defeat the Utes have suffered to WSU. ... Oregon didn't play well but the Ducks did get past Stephen F. Austin, 55-45. ... Cal State Northridge didn't give Washington much of a test, with the Huskies rolling 74-51 at home. ... Arizona tuned up for conference play with a 100-60 rout of Bryant. ... USC couldn't handle Kansas, falling 63-47. ... There was one football game – sort of – involving a Pac-12 school last night, with Boise State hammering Arizona State 56-24 in Dennis Erickson's final game with the Sun Devils. Brock Osweiler did have a good game. ... The biggest news in the football arena was USC quarterback Matt Barkley announcing he will be returning to Southern California next year. The Orange County native will finish out his college career, instantly making USC the South Division favorite in 2012. ... Former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps is not staying in the West. He's headed to Kansas. ... Some Pac-12 Network news.
• That's it for this morning and, quite possibly, for a while. We're going to take some time around the holiday, but will stand ready to blog if events warrant. To stay informed, follow me on Twitter (@vinceg55). We'll let you know if something new is available. Until later ...