Let me address the Winthrop fans first, as I’m sure they’re upset with the loss despite another conference championship season for their Eagles:
That was the best half Washington State has played all season. This is a team, mind you, that has been ranked as high as #4 in the nation. Keep your heads up, Winthrop. You’ll be back.
Winthrop was held scoreless for the first 6:40 of the second half.
The Cougars held Winthrop to five points in the first 17:08 of the second half. I’m going to repeat that, only this time I will italicize certain parts of the sentence to emphasize just how mind-blowing that statistic is.
Washington State held Winthrop to five points in the first 17:08 of the second half.
Aron Baynes was phenomenal: 9 of 9 shooting, 19 points, 8 rebounds. Big men are so often the difference in games between teams from power conferences and
mid-major let’s say “non-power” conferences. Last year it was Ivory Clark. This year it was Aron Baynes. Enjoy it, big guy.
Even the officiating was good: Well, for the most part. Winthrop got a bad deal on that foul where Weaver jumped into the defender as time expired on the shot clock (I hate when they call those). And Weaver’s “flagrant foul” was an absolute joke. He got caught in the air – what else was he going to do – shove Taj McCollough out of the way into a bed of fluffy pillows nearby? Was it a bad foul in terms of playing fundamental basketball? Yes. Was it a flagrant? Of course not.
Whoops – I got so caught up in the bad calls that I forgot to make my point, which was that officiating overall was very good. They let the players play. No one on either team had more than 3 personal fouls. In a game with so much on the line and one group of seniors guaranteed to be playing their last game, that’s how it should be done. Let some contact go, especially under the basket, and call the obvious stuff. There was one point in the first half where I said, “if this was the Pac-10, Baynes would already have 2 fouls”. Perhaps I’m a little bitter about how the conference season was officiated.
I really can’t say enough about that effort. Four Cougar starters scored in double figures, and the one who didn’t had 10 assists. That’s incredible team basketball. Even Caleb Forrest had six off the bench in his homecoming. The only bad news I can find is that Daven Harmeling and Nikola Koprivica still appear to be somewhat limited by their injuries. Harmeling had 0 points in 13 minutes; but he did have 3 assists.
What happened to Winthrop in the second half? Two things: the Cougar defense was stellar and adjusted to prevent McCollough from getting good position near or under the basket. He took way too many jumpers in the second half. The perimeter defense on Gaynor improved, and Michael Jenkins got absolutely shut down in both halves. Kyle Weaver played one of the best games of his career on both sides of the ball. On offense, they made the adjustments necessary to free up Low and then get Baynes and Cowgill the ball off of penetration. Low played an exceptional second half, with 11 on offense and much better defense. Winthrop did hurt itself with turnovers, and especially hurt their cause by missing two open jumpers to start the second half. But the Cougar defense was just too powerful in this one. Like I said, the best half of basketball this team has played all season.