After more or less cruising through their first seven games, Team USA and Australia seemed to be on a crash course to tangle for first place at the FIBA U19 tournament -- an exciting prospect given the presence of WSU star Klay Thompson on the American squad and incoming recruit Brock Motum on the Australian team.
Alas, it is not to be. The Aussies couldn't hold up their end of the bargain, getting whipped by Greece 84-69 in a game that really wasn't even as close as that final margin. Motum, whose effectiveness seemed to tail off as the tournament wore on, scored just nine points in 22 minutes with four rebounds and no assists, steals or blocks.
"We just came out soft, they were all over us," Australia's Cody Ellis told FIBA.com. "They were a lot physically stronger than us tonight. We beat them in Melbourne by 20, and we just came out like we were going to win this. Even in the warm up we were soft, not talking."
So, Team USA will now face Greece -- a team it has already beaten -- for the gold medal after narrowly beating Croatia, 81-77. In fact, it took a fourth-quarter comeback to put away the Croatians after a 46-33 halftime lead was completely erased in the third quarter.
Thompson had his worst shooting game of the tournament -- just five points on 2-of-6 (1-of-4 3-pointers) -- but as he has all tournament, he contributed in other ways, picking up four rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks.
If you didn't watch the games, you can catch highlights here (although, it's basically just a bunch of 3-pointers and dunks with no commentary). I'll have a preview for the gold medal game, which will be played at 12:30 a.m. PDT Saturday night/Sunday morning, up a bit later.
Half a world away, another Coug also will be playing for a gold medal, as Nikola Koprivica and Serbia will take on Russia in the World University Games after defeating Israel, 82-56. The Serbians would have gotten a rematch with Team USA had the Americans not allowed the Russians to end the game on a 20-9 run and defeat them by a point, 69-68. Ouch. But you've got to love all the international success our players are experiencing.
However, at least one blogger is not impressed by all this international experience the Cougs are getting. Joel Welser at CollegeHoops.net ranks WSU as the No. 141 basketball team in the country heading into this season, just ahead of such stellar programs as Jackson State (144), Fairfield (143) and South Carolina State (142).
He does seem to have a grasp on the team as a whole, so I'll give him credit for that -- he even nails Klay's need to be more aggressive to the basket, which is huge and often overlooked. But 141? That's equivalent to Oregon territory from last year, and I have a hard time believing you could make a plausible argument that we'll be that bad. Although not as absurdly low as a couple of the commenters on the post would make it sound, it still seems pretty low to me.
I will, though, give this guy props for even attempting a list like this. Until you've done something similar -- I've voted on blogpoll Top 25s the last couple of years -- you don't know just how hard it is to rank one team against another. It's a lot more difficult than it seems.
Want even more basketball news? Aron Baynes and Taylor Rochestie kicked off their quests to realize their NBA dreams, making their debuts in the NBA summer league yesterday. Rochestie played well in 20 minutes, scoring eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with two assists, a rebound, a steal and a turnover.
Baynes didn't fare nearly as well -- eight minutes, 0-of-4 shooting, three rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one turnover, five fouls. Yuck. Whether Baynes can move his feet quickly enough to play serviceable defense in the NBA will be the key, and if he's picking up that many fouls in summer league ...
Both will be back in action today at 3 p.m. You actually can watch the games online, if you want to give the NBA $14.99. I don't, but I won't begrudge you if you do. The other Coug in the league, Kyle Weaver, doesn't play until 5 p.m. tomorrow. You can check out the full schedule here.
Let's talk money, hopefully for the last time in a while. We noted on Thursday that WSU sent out a release detailing how it's coping with the budget mandates handed down by the university, and it turns out that's about the extent of the budget modifications the athletic department is undertaking. The final numbers are being worked out, but it does appear WSU is going to be able to get by on tightening its belt rather than undergoing the bloodletting at other schools.
Jim Sterk, via Grippi:
"It’s a little bit better than what I had thought," said WSU athletic director Jim Sterk on Thursday, when the athletic department announced a group of budget cuts for the 2009-10 fiscal year that started July 1. "However, some revenues are down, the annual fund, ticket renewals. … Those are things we knew were going to be down, we just had hoped they would stay strong, and they have for the most part."
Still, Washington State is trying to cover a revenue shortfall of around $1 million, a number still not completely defined despite the onset of a new fiscal year.
"I hate to be evasive and I apologize," Sterk said when pressed for concrete budget numbers, "but you could safely say, as we looked at our budget last year and then this upcoming year, we were looking at probably over a million dollars.
"It’s going to be a work in progress. Going into our budgets we have a lot of unknowns."
So there you have it -- the non-story story. About the only definitive thing about it is that there won't be any sports cut this year, which is fantastic (if not unexpected) news.
Let's finish up with a couple of small football notes. First, the game times have been set for the first three games of the year:
- vs. Stanford: 5 p.m.
- vs. Hawaii (in Seattle): 4 p.m.
- vs. SMU: 2 p.m.
None are scheduled to be on TV, although Cougfan.com says the first two contests do fit into broadcast windows and could still be picked up. That seems correct to me.
Lastly, Jon Wilner -- the excellent college sports reporter at the San Jose Mercury News -- ranked Mike Price as the No. 6 Pac-10 coach of the decade. Neato.
We'll be back with more later on this sunny Saturday afternoon.