Of all the questions Washington coach Lorenzo Romar fielded after the game tonight, he might have hesitated least when asked if Washington State is an NCAA tournament-quality team.
“No question,” Romar said. “They’re so dangerous. They can score points -- and then you (at their field-goal percentage defense). So, I think a team like that can definitely go and play in the NCAA tournament and have every opportunity to beat people.”
The Cougars beat their rival Huskies, 87-80, tonight before a rocking and roaring crowd of 10,579 at Beasley Coliseum.
When the final buzzer sounded, the student section rushed the floor and lifted everyone from guard Reggie Moore to the cougar mascot onto their shoulders.
"This probably is the biggest win since I've been here," Washing State coach Ken Bone said afterward.
It also was a game stuffed with statistical oddities and smoking guns.
WSU conference player of the year candidate Klay Thompson struggled against the Huskies last year, but he broke out Sunday with a game-high 25 points.
“Klay Thompson’s a pretty good scorer – sooner of later, he’s going to score,” Romar said. “We’ve done a pretty good job against him in the past four times we played them, and tonight it was his night. He had his way.”
Meanwhile, one of his player-of-the-year rivals – UW’s Isaiah Thomas -- led the Huskies in scoring with 19 points, but Romar and Thomas himself agreed it wasn’t one of his best nights.
Thomas didn’t get his first field goal until there were just over six minutes left in the game. And he had five assists and seven turnovers.
“That was on my part,” Thomas said of the turnovers. “That won’t happen again. … The shots just wasn’t falling. I had open threes. I had some layups I did make. It wasn’t nothing they did. All hats tipped off to them, but there were just shots I didn’t make. I blame this game on me.”
Thomas certainly didn’t deserve all the blame.
The Huskies tried to shoot over WSU’s zone defense, but hit only 11 of 31 3-point tries.
Closer to the basket, Matthew Bryan-Amaning was held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting.
The Huskies out-rebounded the Cougars, 46-32; but negated that and more by committing 24 turnovers.
“(WSU) did a great job tonight defensively in that zone,” Romar said. “They stole a lot of our passes, they deflected a lot of our passes. They forced us into 24 turnovers. No one’s done that to us this year. They did a heck of a job.”
Both teams played with key guys in foul trouble, as three Cougars and one Husky fouled out and three other players ended the game with four fouls.
The result dropped 18th-ranked Washington to 15-5 overall and 7-2 in the Pacific-10 Conference – tied with Arizona for the league at the midpoint of the race.
Washington State climbed to 15-6 and 5-4.
This week both teams will begin the second round of Pac-10 play with visits to Oregon. Washington will visit Oregon State at 6 p.m. Thursday and will make its first visit to Oregon’s new Matthew Knight Arena at 1 p.m. Saturday. Washington State visits in opposite order: Oregon on Thursday and OSU on Saturday.1:11
2:06 Knockout punches? Faisal Alden three puts WSU ip 83-74, and now a charge on Thomas.
3:42: WSU, 80-74. Thomas has heated up: two treys and a two-point field goal now. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Casto has fouled out for the Cougs.
6:16 Thomas finally hits first field goal ... but one with punch. A 3-pointer that cut WSU's lead to 75-69.
7:35 WSU, 74-66 ... with Reggie Moore at the line shooting one.
2nd/11:03 UW answered a bit, chopping the WSU lead to as little as four. However, it's 60-53 now. And Thomas is still looking for his first field goal.
Also, Overton and N'Diaye on the bench with four fouls for UW; same for WSU's Casto.
2nd/16:22 The first serious run of the game has pushed WSU to a 55-44 lead. A Reggie Moore three, followed by a field goal and foul shot by Capers, followed just now by a UW turnover that led to a break and throwdown by Moore.
The crowd, needless to say, is into it.
2nd half: ... has begun.
Halftime: WSU up, 45-43.
Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto 11 points each for WSU.
Gant leading UW with nine, Ross eight, Holiday and Suggs seven.
Thomas? Four points, all fro the fould line. He's 0-for-6 from the field.
UW's N'Diaye and Overton have three fouls; Thomas and Holiday two. Casto has three for Cougs.
WSU shooting 50 percent, UW 44.1 UR 24 rebounds, WSU 15.
Cougars lead in paint, 20-12, and fastbreak points, 2-0. UW leads off turnover 10-7, second change 16-6.
1st/3:15 Now third foul on N'Diaye. Cougs go up, 38-37.
1st/4:08 Overton out with third foul. UW, 37-34.
1st/4:41 UW, 35-32. Huskies seemed to be opening some daylight, but now back-to-back baskets by the Cougars.
1st/6:22 Cougars tied, but now back-to-back 3's by Holiday and Gant have Huskies up, 32-26.
1st/7:52 UW, 24-22. Huskies had gotten up by five, on the strength of 3-pointers by Suggs and a second one by Ross. But WSU has nibbled back, and no real control has been established.
1st/11:30 WSU, 15-14. Cougars playing zone. Holiday on Thompson.
1st/15:02 WSU, 8-5. Lots of unforced errors early, including a missed dunk attempt by Isaiah Thomas. WSU trying to get Thompson off early, and he has a 3-pointer.
Tipoff: We're under way.
Lineup: For UW, Thomas, Suggs, Holiday, MBA, N'Diaye.
For WSU: Moore, Thompson, Casto, Lodwick and Capers.
At least at the start, some empty seats in one upper end zone.
However, those fans that are here are into it. Lots of noise. Or, "Friel the heat," as the PA guy just put it.
Wilcox out: We have just received word that UW freshman guard C.J. Wilcox will be kept out of tonight's game, after suffering a concussion when he caught an elbow from Aziz N'Diaye this week during practice.
Wilcox is in uniform, but will not play.
Running blog: I'll keep this blog open for pregame, in-game and postgame note from Washington-at-Washington State, 7 p.m., FSN.