Cougs Look to Complete LA Sweep against Bruins
It may not have been the complete forty minutes of solid basketball that Coach Ken Bone wanted from his team, but he can’t be too unhappy with the overall performance of the Cougs Thursday night in Los Angeles.
On the road against a team that had lost just two out of their last eleven games, the Cougs came out on top in impressive fashion, coming back from down 15 with 16:25 remaining to beat USC 67-60.
Nikola Koprivica capped a 28-12 run for the Cougs with 4:15 left in the game with a 3-pointer, giving WSU a 54-53 lead, their first since it was 14-12. Koprivica finished with 13 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes of play off the bench. Koprivica started and ended the run for the Cougs, scoring eleven during the stretch and hitting key threes throughout.
The lead would not be lost as Marcus Capers and Klay Thompson came up with big buckets in the final minutes to put the game out of reach.
The scene looked familiar to the Cougs, who let a halftime lead almost escape them last week against Stanford at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman. But, Coach Bone’s men completed their comeback, winning just their second game all season when they’ve trailed at halftime, the other coming against Nicholls State in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Freshman Point Guard Reggie Moore and Sophomore Klay Thompson led the way for the Cougs with 21 and 20 points respectively. Thompson also chipped in six rebounds, coming second on the team to Sophomore DeAngelo Casto, who had eight. Moore raised his assists per game average, dishing out six, but committed five costly turnovers as well.
With the win the Cougs moved to third in the conference at 4-3, a half game behind co-leaders Arizona State and Cal.
Looking for their first weekend sweep of conference opponents, WSU heads over to the historic Pauley Pavilion to take on UCLA Saturday afternoon at 1pm (PST), the game will be aired on FSN.
UCLA has massively underachieved compared to normal expectations, but recently they’ve come up with wins against the pre-season favorites in the Pac-10 in Cal and, on Thursday night, Washington. After Mustafa Abdul-Hamid hit a jumper just inside the three point line as time expired, the Bruins climbed back to .500 in the Pac-10 at 3-3 and gave Washington yet another unforeseen setback as they sit in seventh at 3-4.
Although the Bruins committed sixteen turnovers and went 17-26 (65.4%) from the free throw line, their 53.8% shooting from the floor was enough to overcome the startlingly underwhelming Huskies, who seemed to have righted the ship last weekend with victories by 33 and 15 points over Stanford and Cal respectively.
The Bruins have not shot free-throws particularly well all season with a 61.6% average, and while it didn’t stop them from defeating a talented Washington squad, it’s difficult to think that it won’t come back to haunt them in a close games throughout the year. The Cougars punished USC, who went 12-21 from the charity stripe, including 3-6 in the final minutes, and it’s not farfetched to think that they could do it again to an extremely up and down Bruins team.
The Cougs didn’t shoot their free throws well either, going 17-29, but just getting to the line almost thirty times in a conference road game is something that Coach Bone will be proud of. It will likely be tougher at Pauley Pavilion where Washington were only able to get 12 free throw attempts Thursday night.
After USC battered UCLA’s post game and out rebounded them by 16, the Coug’s post handled the challenge well, losing the rebound match up by just two, 31-33. But of those 33 that got away, a staggering 15 were offensive. It’s not often that you can go on the road and give a team 15 second chance opportunities like that and get out with a victory.
I guess shooting 14-25 from the field and committing just three turnovers in the second half, which can happen with a smoking hot one second and ice cold the next second team like WSU, can help those offensive boards not seem so bad. Not so sure I’d try to convince Coach Bone of that though.
A win for either team would put them in a good spot for the final month plus of the season remaining, especially for WSU, who would be on a three game winning streak and sitting pretty in the Pac-10 at 5-3 heading into Seattle next weekend. Were UCLA to win, an above .500 conference record, albeit in the embarrassingly weak Pac-10, would give something the fans to cheer for in an unprecedented season for the Bruins.
Game one of this important three game stretch was, in most aspects, a success. Much like the USC game, a good road win away to UCLA could do wonders for a young, hot and cold team like WSU.
Washington was embarrassed by their loss in Pauley on Thursday night, but Coach Lorenzo Romar recognized that the team has to pick itself up and move on when he talked about the USC game with the Morning News Tribune’s Don Ruiz.
“Dwelling on what happened in the game; you can go out and get worse. I think we’ve made clear to our team where we were deficient, and it’s time to rally up now.”
In my opinion, what happened in Pauley was nothing new for that place, especially in a year when one would think that Washington is clearly the better team. The place carries a huge jinx and only teams with incredible luck and commitment have been able to break it. The 1987 team with the All-Time UW scorer in Chris Welp (who averaged close to 20 and 10 that year) and a future NBA guard who could play the point and shoot lights in Eldridge Recasner was one of those teams.
Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones senior led team, full of excellent role players was the other. Jones (who I believe had the greatest will to win that I’ve ever seen at Washington) himself literally willed that one with a brilliant performance down the stretch. This loss to UCLA was not that shocking to me. Losing at Montana in 1970 with a team with 3 future NBA players in Steve Hawes, Louie Nelson and Charles Dudley, that was way worse and there have been dozens of completely befuddling games since.
Its college basketball and it takes a special team to win on the road. If UW can find a way to get over the hump against USC, all will look a whole lot better, but if they don’t it doesn’t mean that it’s time to fire the coach, purge an assistant and that everyone on the team is sub-standard, like I’ve seen on ridiculous message board posts around the net. Keep your chins up Dawgs.