We're blogging, though we would rather be headed back to the apartment and some zzzs. But no, we have to go over another game where one team came out flat and showed no energy in the first half. But this one was different. How different? Read on.
• Things that didn't get into my game story: The 54.7 percent WSU shot tonight – 29 of 53 from the field – was its best this Pac-10 season. The Cougars shot just 10 3-pointers, making four. USC, usually a pound-it-at-you type of team, shot 23 3-pointers and made 10, including 8 of 14 in the second half. ... Part of WSU's shooting can be attributed to good execution on the offensive end. But part of it can also be pinned on USC's defense, which wasn't nearly as intense as it was in Los Angeles. Maybe that's what Kevin O'Neill meant when he said the Trojans didn't play hard in the first half, when WSU hit 17 of 30 shots. ... On Tuesday, talking with Brock Motum, he said if WSU could dominate on the boards, or even have an edge, it would win. Well, the Cougars didn't dominate, but they came close, grabbing 35 rebounds, including nine offensive (many of those huge). USC, which put up nine more shots, finished with 29 rebounds, 13 offensive, six by Stepheson. The six-board edge was more than enough for WSU. ... Faisal Aden was more in control offensively tonight, saying afterward the increased minutes allowed him to get into a rhythm. But the increased minutes might have also been because his shot selection, especially early, was better. He didn't take as many 3-pointers, being willing to bounce the ball to a better shot. And, in the second half when he did make a couple bad choices, the Cougars weathered the storm. ... He also made a huge play with the score 75-70 and Nikola Vucevic seemingly about to grab a rebound and give USC a chance to cut the lead to three or less with 1:41 left. Aden picked his pocket by popping the ball up, grabbed it and shot it before Vucevic or anyone else for that matter, knew what happened. ... Washington State took just four shots in the final 4:10 and had one basket, Aden's steal and score. ... The Cougars – tied at 9-8 with USC and Cal – can still finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the final standings, depending on what USC does Saturday at UW and Cal does against Stanford at home. If the Trojans lose and WSU wins, the Cougars are assured of being in the 4-5 game at noon Thursday (the game I'm rooting for). If WSU loses – and the Cougars haven't defeated UCLA here since 1993 – then there's a good chance it will be playing at 8:30 Thursday night (boo) in the 3-6 game.
• A note: Every once in a while my links disappear. The tech folks are stumped. When it's happened previously, I've caught it and relinked the stories. Tonight it slipped through. It works now.
• That's all for now. We'll be back tomorrow morning. Until then ...