It didn’t come down to Washington shooting 22 percent from the floor in the first half or Washington State making 89 percent of its free throws, although those certainly were factors in the Cougars’ 80-69 upset of the Huskies at Hec Ed Sunday night.
As Huskies forward Justin Holiday saw it, it simply came down to the difference between wanting to get the win then going out and getting the win.
Just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re going to get it,” said Holiday, still dazed by the loss. I felt they wanted it and they went and got it. I think we wanted it but we didn’t take care of business and go get the win.
That might sound like an easy task, just go get it, but if you really want something there’s a good chance you can get it. Washington State did that.”
For most of the Western Washington folks, when you live in this Husky-oriented world, there is the inclination to consider only Husky-oriented results. How would the Huskies improve their post-season credentials with a victory over the Cougars? How would 20 wins look? How about 15 consecutive home wins? How would the win set them up for their second-place showdown with UCLA Thursday?
What didn’t get much consideration, at least this side of the mountains, is the other team’s motivation, especially as team as desperate as Washington State. How would the Cougars look wearing victory back to Pullman?
I’d say so, we were more motivated just because of our situation. It was gut-check time,” said Cougar guard Klay Thompson, who had 26 points, 18 in the second half.
The Cougars (18-10, 8-8 in the Pac-10) were swept by the Arizona schools last week, including last-place Arizona State. Crushing losses. Their backs were not against the wall as much as they were on the mat ready to be counted out.
The Huskies (19-9, 10-6) held the advantage, they were back home, where they had won 14 consecutive by 10 points or more. They talked boldly about wanting revenge for the Cougars’ storming of the floor when they won 87-80 on Jan. 30 in Pullman. Not in our house, they said.
But this didn’t resemble any of their previous home games:
- The Huskies missed 12 of 13 three-point attempts in the first half
- They shot 22.2 percent (8 of 36) from the floor in the first half
- They scored just 17 points at half, lowest ever in Coach Lorenzo Romar’s era and 22 fewer than the previous low at home this season.
- They finished the game shooting 29.6 percent (8 of 27) from three-point range.
- Inside players Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye were a combined 6 for 19.
- C.J. Wilcox, who averaged 14.5 points the previous four conference games, did not make his first basket until 5:25 left in the game. He finished with five points.
- The Huskies scored 11 points fewer than their previous season-low at home and 16 below their home average.
Despite it all, the Huskies trailed by just 10 points, 33-23, early in the second half. That was before a devastating five-point possession by the Cougars. DeAngelo Casto was fouled by N’Diaye but somehow the referees ruled continuation on the play and counted his basket. There is no continuation play in college basketball. There was no way that should have counted.
Romar protested, venturing out on the court, too far out of his designated sideline zone and was given a technical. Three free throws later and WSU was up by a 38-23 score.
The Cougars, who clearly came out with more intensity in the first half, now were set up for the second half.
It really wasn’t that hard at all,” Thompson said of sustaining their momentum. It was great playing here in this atmosphere and we wanted to win here so bad. We just had to play a little tougher.”
Thompson, sensing the moment, followed the five-point possession with a three-pointer for a 41-24 lead at 16:34. He hit another two minutes later. That was followed by a pair of assists and the Cougars were rolling, 52-34 by 11:20.
I knew that was the time to keep the foot on the pedal,” Thompson said. We wanted to build a lead so we could almost close the game out. I thought we did a good job of doing that.”
The Huskies came back to within six, 65-59, with 4:06 left but the clock was the enemy. They had to foul and the Cougars came through by hitting 32 of 36. Thompson alone made 13 of 14.
The loss means that the Huskies are now playing at the Cougars level. They are both in the same position, needing to build up the portfolio in order to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.
We haven’t done anything yet,” Bryan-Amaning said. We’re just trying to play our way in.”
Two teams trying to play their way in. They both want to get in the Tournament, as is the goal of every team. But will they do what’s necessary to get in? That’s the difference.