Monday, January 31, 2011

Thompson leads Cougars to 87-80 upset win over 18th ranked Huskies

By Kshell

The Washington State Cougars(15-6,5-4) finally got that much needed big win under Ken Bone. The Cougars defeated cross state rival #18 Washington Huskies(15-5,7-2) 87-80 in front of a raucous crowd at Friel Court in Pullman. For the first time for any player on the Cougars roster they finally defeated the Huskies. Klay Thompson lead the Cougars with 25 points which is a far cry from his previous four games where he scored just 29 points total. I documented his struggles right here the other night against the Huskies. He turned those struggles around against the Huskies and it was the Huskies who struggled against the Cougars. The Cougars won a very important game to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. As for the Huskies they remain in first place in the Pac-10 at the conclusion of the first half of the Pac-10 schedule.

In the first half the Huskies got plenty of help from their role players. The Huskies were attacking the zone against the Cougars. At one point the Huskies had hit 5-11 from three point range to extend their lead to 37-33. That would be the last lead the Huskies would hold. The Cougars would start playing lockdown defense on the Huskies and go on a run going up 45-41. Before the half ended Isaiah Thomas drove to the hole and was knocked down by DeAngelo Casto with 0.3 seconds left. Thomas would sink both free throws to pull the Huskies within two points trailing 45-43. That play was important as Casto picked up his third foul of the half. The Cougars led by Klay Thompson finally scored in double figures against the Huskies had 11 points on 5-10 shooting, Casto had 11 points on five for nine shooting and grabbed five rebounds, and newcomer Faisal Aden had 10 poitns on 4-10 shooting including two three pointers.

The Huskies were led by their role players in the first half as their two stars struggled. Isaiah Thomas who didn't hold back when dissing on the city of Pullman also missed all seven field goal attempts in the first half scoring just four points. Matthew Bryan-Amaning also struggled scoring just four points while missing four of six free throws. The Huskies were bailed out by Darnell Gant who scored nine points on three for four shooting including a three poitner. Gant also had three rebounds and three assists off the bench. The Huskies also had Scott Suggs who scored seven points on three for four shooting including a three and Terrence Ross who scored eight points on three for seven shooting including two threes help lead the Huskies. Justin Holiday scored seven points with four rebounds but shot just one for five from three point range.

It was hard to imagine the Huskies only being down two points with Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning shooting a combined 1-12 in the first half. The Cougars were also shooting 47.2% from the field compared to the Huskies 40.5% from the field. The Huskies were in the game due to 20 rebounds to only nine by the Cougars. The Huskies owned the glass with seven offensive rebounds. The Huskies were poised to have a big second half unfortunately the Cougars had other plans.

The second half began well for the Huskies. With Thomas driving to the rim constantly Casto picked up his fourth foul and Thompson picked up his third foul. The Cougars had to sit their two best players. That is when everyone figured a big run was going to happen. The problem for the Huskies is it was the Cougars who went on the run going on a 10-1 run to take a 55-44 lead. The Huskies would often pull within four or five points but could never get a key stop to pull any closer. Whenever the Huskies would cut the lead down the Cougars would often hit a wide open three point shot or get a bucket plus the foul. The Cougars finally inserted their two stars Thompson and Casto to put the game away. The Cougars had upset the Huskies 87-80 and the fans stormed the court like they had just won the national championship.

For the Cougars nobody on this roster had ever beaten the Huskies. This is easily the biggest win of the Ken Bone era who used to be a former Huskies assistent coach. Klay Thompson who had struggled in the past finally shined in his fifth carer game against the Huskies. Thompson scored 25 points on 9-18 shooting including hitting three three pointers. Thompson also added four assists and five steals to lead the Cougars upset. He received help from his teammates as well. Reggie Moore from Rainier Beach scored 18 points on four for eight shooting while Faisal Aden scored 15 points on 6-17 shooting. The Cougars shot 30-62(48.4%) from the field and 8-17 from downtown(47.1%). The only thing the Cougars did wrong was from the free throw line shooting 19-30(63.3%) but the Cougars made up for it with good team ball. The Cougars had an amazing 18 assists on their 30 made field goal attempts with just 12 turnovers. The Cougars also had 13 steals and three blocks on the day. Not often you brag about a team's defense when they allow 80 points but the Cougars defense did an exceptional job against the Huskies.

For the Huskies they have to be wondering how they lost this game. The Huskies had a great size advantage on the Cougars and dominated the glass outrebounding the Cougars 44-28 including 14 offensive rebounds. The Cougars main big man DeAngelo Casto sat most of the second half before fouling out having played just 21 minutes. The Huskies also had the Cougars in the double bonus with 10 minutes to go in the game. The Huskies were actually making their free throws too this game shooting 15-17(88.2%) in the second half on free throws. You would have thought the Huskies would have pounded the ball inside to Matthew Bryan-Amaning but instead the Huskies shot 31 three point field goal attempts making just 11.

The Huskies couldn't and especially Bryan-Amaning couldn't take advantage of their size. Bryan-Amaning who has been terrific in Pac-10 play this season finished just one for eight shooting for six points but did grab 11 rebounds. The Huskies decided to settle for three point shots as Isiah Thomas was the only one driving the lane. Thomas missed his first 10 field goals before finally hitting his last three shots. Thomas finished 3-13 with 19 points and five assists. Thomas was also 11 for 12 from free throws and did make two three pointers. Thomas also had seven turnovers on the game as he played 37 minutes at the point. The other main Husky scoring option didn't play very well either in Justin Holiday who finished with 16 points but just 4-12 shooting including 2-7 on three point shots. Holiday did collect a career high 12 rebounds including five offensive. Unlike the previous four games against Thompson he struggled to slow down Thompson today. The role players for the Huskies shined with Terrence Ross scoring 14 points on 5 for 10 shooting including four for eight on three pointers, Scott Suggs scored 12 points on 5-12 shooting in 35 minutes made just two for seven from three point range and Darnell Gant finished with nine points with a season high seven rebounds. The Huskies got great efforts from their bench but when your three stars combined to shoot 8-33(24.2%) from the field that is hard to win.

The Huskies also didn't take care of the ball enough to win as well. The Huskies turned the ball over 24 times to just 12 assists. The Huskies shot miserable too making just 23-62(37.1%) from the field and 11-31(35.5%) from threes. The Huskies did make 23-29(79.3%) from their free throws the lone positive of the game. The Huskies failed to take advantage of the Cougars foul trouble and go inside. The Huskies didn't play their best ball at all but only lost by seven points on the road.

All in all this will be a tough loss to swallow for the Huskies. Lorenzo Romar I'm sure didn't draw up a gameplan that including half the field goal attempts to be three point shots. The Huskies often times gave up easy threes and could never hit that open three point shot to make things interesting. The Huskies still went 7-2 in the first half of the Pac-10 season and are tied for first place. The Huskies must learn from this loss and use this loss to their advantage. This win is also dangerous for the Cougars as they reacted as if they won the National Championship. Still plenty of work to be done in Pullman as the Cougars are scratching and clawing their way into the NCAA tournament. Should be a fun second half of the season just remember Cougar fans you still have to come to Hec Ed where the Huskies have lost just three times the past three seasons.

- I'll never understand why the Huskies didn't try to go inside. I know Bryan-Amaning was off but the Huskies were in the double bonus. The Cougars already lacking size had Casto on the bench whole second half yet the Huskies let the Cougars off the hook.

Thomas despite playing poorly was the only one who drove to the rim to draw those fouls. The Huskies with 10 minutes to go would get two free throws which they were making tonight everytime the Cougars fouled them didn't take advantage. Instead the Huskies settled for three point shots which of course nobody found a hot streak. The Huskies began the game 5-11 from three point shots but finished ice cold connecting on just 6-20 from beyond the arc.

This seems to be a trend for the Huskies in their losses this year which is jack up threes, get no assists while turning the ball over like crazy. Against Kentucky the Huskies shot 3-13(23.1%) from three point range while turning the ball over 14 times to just nine assists. Against Michigan State the Huskies shot 6-15(40.0%) from three point range while turning the ball over 15 times to just 13 assists. Against Texas A & M the Huskies shot 6-22(27.3%) from three point range, turned the ball over 20 times to just 11 assists. Against Stanford the Huskies shot 8-26(30.8%) from three point range with 14 turnovers to just 11 assists. Then today the Huskies shot 11-31(35.5%) from three point range, with 24 turnovers to just 12 assists.

If you add it all up in the Huskies five losses on the year they are shooting just 34-107(31.8%) from three point range. The Huskies in their defeats have turned the ball over 87 times to just 56 assists which is easy to see why the Huskies lost those games. When you aren't taking care of the ball and jacking up three makes it very difficult to win the game.

- Thomas didn't play his best game today that is pretty safe to say. He missed his first 10 field goal attempts of the game including some easy layups. He also turned the ball over seven times today. He also never quit playing hard which is expected of him.

Thomas despite all that drove the lane hard. He basically fouled out Casto and was a big reason why Thompson had to sit so long. Thomas was also 11-12(91.7%) from the free throw line today. Thomas was the only one being agressive and going to the hole. While his teammates were busy jacking up three point shots, Thomas was driving to set up his teammates who ultimately let him down today.

Thomas also needs help badly at the point guard position. He played 37 minutes while mostly running the point. With Abdul Gaddy being injured for the season and Venoy Overton being a no show his Senior year it is all on Thomas. Having a healthy Gaddy would have been nice in a game like today. A taller guard who can dribble the ball and shoot the three point shot. Instead Thomas had to play 37 minutes and Suggs played 35 minutes who also had five turnovers. Thomas needs help or some team in March who is more athletic than the Cougars will put a bigger guy on Thomas. The Cougars put Klay Thompson on Thomas at first and it appeared to have worked.

Overall back to the drawing board for the Huskies. Both the Huskies and Cougars have completed the hardest parts of their schedule since the California road trip is over. For the Huskies they have five games at home plus four on the road(three of which are the bottom feeders of the Pac-10). The Huskies will only be an underdog in one more regular season game rest of the way. That game will be at Arizona on February 19th which will play a big part in who wins the Pac-10 championship. As for the Cougars they sit at 5-4 in conference trying to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Klay Thompson era. The Cougars will have a tougher second half since they are only 1-3 in Pac-10 play on the road while still having to go to Arizona and Washington. The Cougars have a great chance this week in Oregon to gain some road confidence.

In conclusion the Huskies don't need to press any panic buttons. The Huskies are still the most talented team and experienced team in the conference. The Huskies are tied for first place and are in great shape going forward. The Huskies are in a position to play in the March Madness NCAA tournament for the third straight season. The Huskies however must stop jacking up three point shots all the time and run an offense. The Huskies have to take care of the ball as they are averaging over 17 turnovers a game in their losses. I think the Huskies should be able to go on a five game winning streak which should put them at 12-2 in the conference heading into the showdown game at Arizona. After that game the Huskies close out with three home games in a row. So as the Cougars celebrated today like they won the NCAA championship they must remember it is the Huskies who still remain in first place. It is the Huskies not the Cougars who control their own destiny to win the Pac-10 championship. Also memo to the Cougars you still have a return trip to Seattle on February 27th. I'm sure the Huskies will remember the way your fans behaved tonight. Isaiah Thomas already stated he is taking mental notes so beware of the dawgpack my Cougar friends.

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