Monday, February 28, 2011

Cougars end Huskies unbeaten streak at home in shocking 80-69 win.

By Kshell

The Washington State Cougars(18-10,8-8) swept their cross state rivals the Washington Huskies(19-9,10-6) for the fourth time in six seasons. Just like the previous game the Cougars did a terrific job of defending the three point shot by the Huskies. The Cougars kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive led by Klay Thompson who scored 26 points. As for the Huskies they were led by Isaiah Thomas who scored 21 points but that wasn't enough. The Huskies at the start of the year had people talking about final fours. Now their hopes of making an NCAA tournament are definately in jeopardy. The Huskies for the second straight year will finish below where they were picked to finish in the preseason polls. The Huskies a roster full of scorers had just three guys scorer in double figures. The Cougars are the only team in college basketball to win have a winning record at Hec Ed in the last six seasons. During that span no team has beaten the Huskies more than twice at Hec Ed while the Cougars have done it four times now.

The first half featured some of the ugliest basketball you could have witnessed. Both teams looked CBI bound let alone tournament bound. The first half saw a combined 41 points, 16-61(26.2%) shooting from the field and 3-21(14.3%) shooting from three point range. This was the type of pace which favors the Cougars as the Huskies struggle in these games. After the Huskies fell behind early 11-4 they fought back to take a 15-13 lead after a Thomas layup. Then Abe Lodwick hit a three pointer to give the Cougars the lead 16-15 where the Cougars would never trail again. The Cougars took a 24-17 lead heading into halftime. The Cougars were up seven points despite shooting just 8-25(32.0%) from the field, 2-8(25.0%) from three point range but 6-7(85.7%) from the free throw line. The Cougars were led by Klay Thompson who scored eight points on two for six shooting but was three for four from free throw's. Thompson did have five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game.

The Huskies were lucky to have been trailing by just seven points. The Huskies shot 8-36(22.2%) from the field and just a ridiculously low 1-13(7.7%) from three point range. The Huskies only attempted two free throws missing them both. The Huskies were led at halftime by Justin Holiday with five points on two for six shooting including a three pointer. Thomas scored four points on two for seven shooting. Venoy Overton provided a spark off the bench scoring four points on two for four shooting. Matthew Bryan-Amaning was held scoreless missing all five field goal attempts. Fellow big man Aziz N'Diaye scored two points on one for five shooting. The Huskies big men just like the previous meeting were letting them down.

The second half saw an increase in the scoring but unfortunately for the Huskies it was mostly done by the Cougars. Klay Thompson scored 10 points right off the bat in the second half. In fact the Cougars stretched their lead to 21 points in the second half. Not only were the Cougars upsetting the Huskies in their own building they were destroying the Huskies. The Cougars led 60-42 when the Huskies finally went on a run. The Huskies went on a 15-4 run which saw them nail three straight three pointers on three straight possessions to cut the lead to 64-57. Then Thompson committed a foul after an Overton free throw the Huskies trailed by just six points. Then the Cougars simply put the Huskies away and clinched the win 80-69.

The Cougars were led by Thompson who scored 26 points 5-13 shooting from the field, hitting three three pointers and was 13-14 from the free throw line. Thompson also turned the ball over just once after turning the ball over five times in the first 10 minutes. DeAngelo Casto had a strong game as well scoring 20 points on 6-10 shooting and was a perfect eight for eight at the foul line. Casto also pulled down 13 rebounds including four offensive. The Cougars also received 10 points from Reggie Moore on three for nine shooting. The Cougars as a team shot 21-53(39.6%) from the field, 6-21(28.6%) from three point range but won the game at the foul line. The Cougars were an amazing 32-36(88.9%) from the free throw line.

The Huskies blew a great opportunity. After the Arizona Wildcats were swept to have the Huskies be within one game of first place the Huskies laid an egg. The Huskies had a great run in the second half but the game is 40 minutes long not five. The Huskies in the second half shot better but the damage was already done in the first 30 minutes of the game. The Huskies shot 23-68(33.8%) from the field, 8-27(29.6%) from the three point range and 15-24(62.5%) from the free throw line. When the game was within six points the Huskies were 12-20(60.0%) from the foul line while the Cougars were 19-20(95.0%) from the foul line. The Huskies just like last game outrebounded the Cougars 42-35 including 23 offensive rebounds. The Huskies just like last game couldn't take advantage.

The Huskies were led by Isaiah Thomas who scored 21 points on 8-16 shooting including three three's but was just two for six from the foul line. Thomas dished out five assists in the loss. The next leading scorer was Matthew Bryan-Amaning who scored 14 points on 3-11 shooting but was eight for nine from the foul line. Bryan-Amaning did add 10 rebounds including four offensive. Justin Holiday finished with 11 points on 4-11 shooting including three three pointers with five assists. Aziz N'Diaye added six points on three for eight shooting and nine rebounds. Venoy Overton scored eight points on three for seven shooting including a three pointer. Ultimately the Huskies didn't get enough from an already thin roster that has seen two starters go down to injury.

The Huskies once again must dig themselves out of a hole they have created for themselves. For the first time all year the reality has to hit that the NCAA tournament isn't a guarantee which seems stunning. The Huskies active roster has played a combined 29 NCAA tournament games including 13 starts so there is plenty of experience on this roster. The Huskies thought they had a special season going into the year and they still could. For the second straight year it appears the Huskies backs will be against the wall for the NCAA tournament. Last year's run was nice but many forget how much they underachieved throughout the season. Now this year's group seems determine to follow that same pace but what if they don't win the Pac-10 tournament? A season which saw them ranked in the top 10 could go down the drains. What could hurt the Huskies even more is if somehow the Cougars make the NCAA tournament over them. The Huskies have two regular season games left at home against two teams who are better than Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon and Washington State you know teams who have given the Huskies fives losses already.


- Remember when the Huskies owned Klay Thompson? yes feels like a lifetime ago doesn't it? Thompson in his first four games against the Huskies shot 10-47(21.2%) while scoring just 29 points(7.3 PPG) which were all four losses. Well now Thompson has turned that around this year scoring 51 points(25.5 PPG) while shooting 14-31(45.1%) from the field. Thompson has turned it around against the Huskies. As a Huskies fan knowing that he is a Junior I hope he goes off to end the year so he can leave early.

The scary thing for the Huskies and well for the rest of the Pac-10 is if Thompson comes back. The Cougars start four juniors and one sophomore. If Thompson were to come back they would be on the short list of favorites next year to win the Pac-10 championship. Pretty funny how things change in a short time. This is the same Cougars team that lost to Stanford at home, lost to Arizona State but can sweep the Huskies. Thompson has two home games left to prove his legacy at WSU. If the Cougars win both games they'll be 10-8 with some impressive wins. If the Cougars sweep they might have to just win one Pac-10 tournament game and they'll be going to the NCAA tournament for the third time in five years.

- Matthew Bryan-Amaning for whatever reason has struggled this year against the Cougars. On the year Bryan-Amaning is 4-19(21.0%)from the field against the Cougars. Bryan-Amaning is averaging just 10.0 PPG but 10.5 rebounds a game. This is by far the team that has given Bryan-Amaning the most trouble.

At one point it appeared to be a mental thing for Bryan-Amaning as he was missing easy layups that he is capable of making. I'll give him credit for hustling down the court and blocking shots. He was strong on the rebounds again he just had a bad game. He also logged the most minutes playing in 36 minutes. Unlike games in the past Bryan-Amaning brought the effort just couldn't hit such easy buckets while Castro got the better end of the matchup.

- Isaiah Thomas played a good second half but in the first half he was terrible. Thomas in the second half did shoot six for nine with 17 points including three three pointers. For the game Thomas finished 8-16 with 21 points hitting three three pointers and dishing out five assists. He was also two for six from the free throw line.

Thomas in the last four games has shot 12-25(48.0%) from the free throw line. Thomas who is a career 71.2% free throw shooter needs to start knocking down these FREE throws. He attacks the paint so much and he needs to make teams pay for fouling him. He is too good of a shooter to be shooting that terrible from the foul line. Free throw's has been a problem for the Huskies the last couple of years. Makes you wonder if they even practice free throw's during the practices.

- For the Lorenzo Romar critics out there this loss put more fuel to the fire. Romar in the last six years is 4-9 against the Cougars despite outrecruiting them each and every single year. This year really hurt as Romar was swept by Ken Bone who was his assistent when the Huskies were the #1 seed in the 2004-05 season. Bone many believe was the offensive geru for Romar. Romar has also lost assistent Cameron Dollar who the Huskies just defeated on Tuesday. That is the price of being a successful program other schools will snatch up your assistents. Romar has a losing record against just one Pac-10 team which is the Cougars he is now 9-10 against the Cougars.

The blueprint has been set on how to defeat the Huskies. Run a good zone and you will defeat the Huskies. Romar has done a lot of good things at Washington while he's been the coach. One thing Romar hasn't done a good job of is running a half court offense. He needs to find an offensive geru to help him out. Remember Phil Jackson who has won 11 championships needed Tex Winter to help him run the triangle offense. If Jackson needs an offensive geru than anyone can. The Huskies struggle against teams who run a good zone, slow the game down, and still can't hit their free throws. If the Huskies ever wish to go that next level Romar must swallow his pride and admit he needs help on offense.

All in all, the team takes on the personality of the leaders of the team. Two years ago Jon Brockman was that leader and everyone knew that. That team wasn't the most talented team but they overachieved to win the Pac-10 regular season championship. They were are a hard working tough team who won the close games. Last year the leader was Quincy Pondexter who may have worked even harder than Brockman. Pondexter busted his butt to improve as a player from freshman year to senior year and carried the Huskies. He took the Huskies on his back and even hit the game winning shot in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Now the leaders are all cocky. The upperclassman spend most of their time on twitter and flexing than practicing the fundamentals. These Huskies would rather look good first then win second. The Huskies need to realize that fundamentals is why the Cougars have defeated them 9 out of 13 times. The Huskies need to take a look in the mirror and less on their blackberries or iPhone. These Huskies need to get to work and they need to realize they can't afford to lose another game. One more loss and their NCAA tournament hopes could be dashed. We'll see who is going to step up on this team and be the leader. As of right now I see no leadership at all which isn't a trait of Romar teams. Romar teams always have the Seniors step up as the leaders but this group has shown no leadership. Hopefully somebody steps up and becomes a leader before this season goes down in flames.

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