Game 30: Washington at (23) Washington State

I just got down to Pullman and I haven’t had a chance to pick up my Evergreen. I hear I made it in the special edition, but just in case here is my whole submission to the paper regarding senior night:

——-

I came to WSU the same year that Dick and Tony Bennett did. My friends and I stuck with the team for three losing seasons. We saw the unbearable loss to #1 Stanford, read the box score from the 81-29 loss to Oklahoma State, watched the team lose four consecutive games to the huskies, and fall in 14 of their last 16 games to close out the 2006 season.

Then, after a double-digit loss to Utah, something amazing happened. The Cougs overcame a 10 point lead from #18 Gonzaga, and never looked back. There wasn’t any hesitation on my part to rush the court, and when we did three years of bad memories and losses at the buzzer were history. We all know how the rest turned out – the first NCAA tournament in over a decade, the win over Oral Roberts, and the emergence of a team this year that has never dropped out of the Top 25.

I have to thank the team for never giving up. I especially want to thank the members of Bennett’s first recruiting class. They came to Pullman knowing the odds were against them and somehow overcame it all. Kyle Weaver has been incredible to watch and will be an absolute steal for the NBA team that drafts him. Derrick Low had games where he couldn’t miss and sports the best leg tattoo in the nation. Robbie Cowgill makes defense on guys that look twice his size seem effortless. Chris Henry was a force under the basket until injuries held him on to the bench for way too long. Daven Harmeling has been fun to watch, and the silver lining to his injury two years ago is that he’ll be back for one more season.

Most importantly, I want to thank Dick and Tony Bennett. Dick told the ZZU CRU prior to his last game that WSU was his favorite place out of all the universities he had coached in his long career. That to me sums up the Bennett era here. We never gave up on them, and they never gave up on the team or the university. I will always be grateful for that.

——-

Projected starters (senior night):
G Cross
G Low
G Weaver
F Cowgill
C Henry

Line: Washington State (-9)

Why the Cougs might win: Dick Bennett in attendance. Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low, and Robbie Cowgill’s last home game. It could be a special night.

Why the Huskies might win: “The Randy Green Effect”. The emotions of senior night can work both ways. In Green’s final game at home he was the lone senior. The Cougs came out in green-colored warmups. The stage was set – unfortunately Randy went 0 for 7 from the floor, with 6 of those misses from behind the arc. The Cougs lost 39-37, meaning you could make the argument that if he hit just one of those shots the game would’ve been won by WSU or gone to overtime.

X-Factor: Derrick Low. Could go for 4 points in this game. Could go for 40. It’s anyone’s guess, and here’s hoping it’s the latter.

Prediction: Washington State 69, Washington 54

——-

Rooting Interests:

Cal at UCLA
Stanford at USC (if the Cougars win)
Arizona State at Oregon State
Arizona at Oregon

Advertisements

Tonight’s Rooting Interests (3/6)

(7) Stanford at (3) UCLA – A Stanford win would lead to a truly tied Pac-10 race for first. UCLA hosts 9th place Cal on Saturday, while Stanford travels to 4th place USC. The Pac-10 can still benefit as a whole from UCLA grabbing that #1 seed.

Arizona State at Oregon – This is where things get interesting for the Cougs. All ASU has to do is beat Oregon State and they will have 9 wins and a high probability of a top 5 conference spot. This is bad news for WSU since the Sun Devil team they swept in the regular season may not be their first round opponent in the conference tournament. Oregon is, oddly enough, a better matchup for the Cougs this year than Arizona, so it’s time to cheer on the Ducks to climb to sixth place.

Arizona at Oregon State – Unlikely, but then we’ve seen a lot of strange things come from this Arizona team this season. If the Wildcats lose they face essentially a must win in Eugene. Again, the key for WSU is making sure that Arizona stays out of the 6 spot. However, many teams have come back from a regular season sweep to get redemption in the Pac-10 tournament, including Southern Cal against Wazzu last season.

California at USC – A USC loss guarantees the Cougs their second straight top-3 finish in the Pac-10.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Stanford 60, Washington State 53

What can I say about that second half that hasn’t already been said about the Bay of Pigs. It was your classic college basketball meltdown, and yet, after ten minutes to cool down, I don’t feel so bad. Why?

Well, for starters, the Cougs are in the tournament. They lost to a legitimate top 10 team. They should be a heck of a lot more motivated to beat the huskies next week. The loss raised our somewhat maligned SOS, and in the end it’s only one game. The season’s not over. Far from it.

The frustration from the Stanford game is that it was a two-faced performance on all fronts. The cougs were magnificent in the first half, awful in the second. They held Stanford to 22 points in the first, and then got held to 20 points in the second. Depending on how you look at it, Brook Lopez was absolutely dominant, or babied by the officials (realistically it was a mix of the two). Low couldn’t miss in the first half, and could hardly make anything in the second. Stanford’s defense tightened up late, and the only offense they needed was Brook Lopez, who put up a line of 11 of 16 from the floor, leading to 25 of Stanford’s 60 points and far too many chest bumps along the way.

You could say the Cougs “blew it”, but that would be an insult to the opponent. Stanford did everything they needed and had the benefit of every bounce going their way when the Cougars desperately needed some luck. Great teams create their own luck, get their own calls, and find ways to win games they have no business of winning. Stanford is a great team. In part it is why I don’t feel so bad – the Cougs need experiences like this for the postseason. A loss teaches you more about your team than a win, and there is no possible way the 06-07 and 07-08 cougs would be as poised without the seasons of losses that preceded them. Two years ago we still had Weaver, Low, Cowgill, Baynes, etc., etc. The reason these same players lost games then and win games now is that they’ve had the experience. They survived the losses and they grew. It was the same players on the court in both halves. The difference was the performance, and the Cougs sure got a learning experience in the last half of this one.

Player of the game: Have to go with Baynes. He gutted it out, shot 4 or 7 from the field (one of the misses was a desperation 3 that he had to take) , scored 10 points and did what he could in the low post on defense. His fifth foul was a joke of a call. Baynes was the microcosm of the evening for the Cougars – he brought the effort, the intensity, the first-half shooting and defense, only to get plowed over in the second half by a 7-foot NBA prospect and that whole “momentum” concept that the media loves but may not really exist.

Also, the glare he shot Robin Lopez after his final dunk was one of my favorite moments of the night.

My advice to the team: watch the second half game tape, learn everything you can, then smash the thing with a sledgehammer.

Tonight’s rooting interests:

USC at Arizona State – The Devils are desperate; the Cougs need a USC loss to remain in the driver’s seat for third place.

Washington at California – remember that Cal team that swept the Washington schools on the road? Would be nice to see them tonight.

St. Mary’s at Gonzaga – Even if you dislike the zags (which I don’t), you have to like the prospect of them improving WSU’s strength of schedule.

Tomorrow:
Oregon at Oregon State – Beaver nation has suffered long enough.

UCLA at Arizona – After today’s game you have to like the Bruins over Stanford for the conference title. Could a .500 or worse (in conference) Arizona team still make the tourney?

Game 28: (22) Washington State at California

Projected Starters:

WSU 21-6 (9-6), 3rd Pac-10
G Rochestie
G Low
G Weaver
F Cowgill
C Baynes

Cal 15-10 (6-8), 7th Pac-10
G Randle
G Christopher
F Anderson
F Boykin
C Hardin

Line: Washington State (-2)

Last meeting: California 69, Washington State 64

Why Cal might win: Ryan Anderson shot 9 for 13 from the field in Cal’s previous win against Wazzu, including 5 of 7 from three-point range.

Why WSU might win: California is 2-5 at home in conference play.

Cougar X-factor: Caleb Forrest. Daven Harmeling is questionable for the game tonight (sprained ankle), which will likely increase the junior forward’s playing time. Forrest was impressive against Arizona last Saturday, scoring 8 points on 2 of 3 shooting in 20 minutes of play.

Prediction: Washington State 64, California 59

———
Tonight’s rooting interests:

USC at Arizona – The cougs hold the tiebreaker (if necessary) with the fourth-place trojans, and it’s hard to root for Kevin O’Neill after his postgame comments on Saturday.

Washington at (8) Stanford – The Cardinal can put another nail in the coffin of the huskies’ postseason hopes. However, the cougs still have an outside shot at second place if Stanford loses. Tie goes against the huskies.

(4) UCLA at Arizona State – It would help the entire conference if the Bruins can snatch a #1 seed. ASU can solidify the cougs’ tourney hopes by falling off the bubble.