SMPG: In a meltdown, everyone loses

Yesterday, we saw first hand why sometimes it isn't a good idea to rest your hopes with the fates of 18-23 year olds.

And yet, here we are. Still fans. And the problem with being attached to our favorite team is that people associate the team with us. When the team does well, people congratulate us. When the team does poorly, people show sympathy for us. When your team blows a 12 point halftime lead and doesn't score a point for eight straight minutes, well, you better hope you're in a room full of friends and that there aren't any Huskies around.

The good news is that we're all in it together. I could come on here, or the Cougfan boards, and see any number of WSU fans feeling the same thing I did. It helps to know we're all in the same boat. It's cathartic to know we all have to vent against the team that let us down yesterday. Even though anger isn't really how we feel towards our team. We're just so incredibly disappointed that they fell apart right in front of us, and there was nothing we could do about it.

Fortunately, I have a wife who is O.K. with me throwing a pillow behind the couch on Valentine's day. Fortunately I was able to bounce back quickly - post a couple of sarcastic thoughts on the blog here, then take a deep breath and go play some Rock Band. Distraction is the best way to forget that your team fell apart and lost a game it had no business losing.

It was ironic that this happened against Oregon State. A month ago, we did it to them. Oregon State had a 43-34 lead in the first matchup in Corvallis, and then let a similar stretch of offensive ineptitude help snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Beavers had 7 points in the final 13:48 of play, and nearly allowed Taylor Rochestie to beat them on - guess what - a floater in the lane near the end of regulation. They completed the blowing of the game in overtime. It felt more like they lost the game than we won it. The exact opposite of yesterday.

So OSU did unto us what we did to them. This was more shocking, though. For weeks now Tony has been talking on his radio show about how the team has worked to beat traps and the fullcourt press. They will play 5-on-6 in the halfcourt. 3-on-4 in the fullcourt. And for the first half of yesterday's game, the Cougs executed well against OSU's 1-3-1 zone trap. They even got aggressive and earned some easy buckets, because, after all, if two people are guarding one, someone's open.

But that faded away - along with our offense - in the second half. The Cougs' turnover rate shot up, and the shots from the perimeter never went down.

The blame for this loss ultimately falls on Tony Bennett. It is a coach's job to stop runs like this and draw up plays that stop the bleeding. And Tony attempted to do those things - but perhaps overestimated his team's ability to execute them. Like the alley-oop lob that ultimately went over Klay Thompson's head, the plays may have been well-designed, but they didn't fit the team running them. And Tony has to settle his team down. When things are falling apart, you cannot let your team get frustrated. They did - including a group of seniors who should know that they have the ability to stop a run. And using the last timeout after the Rochestie lay-in was beyond damaging. Even though we got the missed free-throw from the Beavers, Baynes couldn't find anyone to throw to. No time out, game over.

And how much clearer do I have to make it? We have to get to the line. You know where the scoring drought ultimately ended? On a drive and trip to the free-throw line by DeAngelo Casto. It's not difficult. You have to be aggressive getting to the hoop. The quickest, most reliable cure for any scoring drought is a couple of one-point shot attempts with no one guarding you. Problem is, Tony doesn't seem to believe in the importance of free throw rate the way I do. Either that or the team just flat doesn't know how to get to the stripe.

The most frustrating thing of all is that the team knows what they need to do. Klay's own father, on FSN, pointed out the two biggest problems our young Jedi had yesterday. Not being aggressive enough, and failing to defend the backdoor cuts that you know are coming with a Princeton-style offense. No doubt Klay's heard those things before, either from his Dad or his coach. Tony knows about our deficiencies against pressure. Our team knows they have to protect the ball. But thinking something and doing something are two different things. And as fans, we're powerless to stop the bleeding. All we can do is cheer and hope for the best.

And that, really, is why yesterday was so incredibly frustrating. For all of us.

The good news: there's always the next game. We'll be back, win or lose. Go Cougs.

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