Still in shock/euphoria that we have happy charts tonight:
We have seen some surprising outcomes this season. Without a doubt, Seattle U's 99-48 thrashing of Oregon State comes to mind. So does Charleston's upset win over North Carolina. Still, nothing - at least from WSU's standpoint - may top the second half of this game.
USC's defense is good. Really good. Coming into tonight, they were the #1 defense in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. They give up the least points per possession in the country, too: 0.87. That was the main reason the Trojans came in as 10 point favorites by Ken Pomeroy and around 8 point favorites by the bookmakers out there. This was a game the Cougars weren't supposed to win.
And for a half, the prognosticators would've been right. The Cougars took a Colt .45 to their own foot, turning the ball over numerous times and giving up transition basket after transition basket - Vince Grippi tallied the points off turnovers for USC at 12 by the time intermission came. That put WSU in a ten point hole, with little hope of climbing out against a stout defense and a team that limits possessions.
However, the Cougars have been a Jekyll and Hyde team in halves this season, and, fortunately for us, the second half was the Cougs' better half tonight. Actually, that's an understatement. This may have been the best offensive half the Cougars have played all season - possibly in years - after USC expanded their lead to 15, early in the 23rd minute. In fact, over the final 8:41, the Cougars missed just one shot (hat tip to Grippi - seriously, folks, go out and get a Spokesman subscription) on their way to rallying for a seven point win. Nikola Koprivica drained all three of his second-half three point attempts, Reggie Moore paced the Cougar offense in the lane, and Klay Thompson was solid, without needing to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders (for a change). If WSU hadn't bricked 12 free throw attempts (58.6% shooting from the line), the game may have been even turned into a double-digit win.
When the dust settled, the Cougars had shredded America's best defense, 43-26, in the second half. Now that's a win to get excited about.
Player of the Game: Reggie Moore and Nikola Koprivica (tie) - First,
Sam the Eagle Kevin O'Neill on Reggie, who scored 21 points, with six assists: "The kid that killed us was Moore. He took us apart. We just didn’t keep the ball in front of us." And, what else can you say about Nik, who has gone from whipping boy to cult favorite, even among the most fairweather Cougar fans. 13 points on 3 of 4 shooting with 5 boards and 2 assists.
Unsung Hero: Klay Thompson. You won't see a lot of love for Klay's performance, but we really shouldn't be taking this sort of night for granted. Hence the unsung hero award. 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting, 6 rebounds and only one turnover. He also made his free throws fairly consistently (5 of 7).
Play of the Game: I'll take the Koprivica three to give the Cougars the lead, 54-53, with 4:15 to play. Although the Capers dunk that followed on the next possession was also a favorite.
It was over when... Dwight Lewis missed the first of three free throws (seriously, D, don't ever foul on a three-point shooter again in that scenario) with 23 seconds to play. Had he hit all three, USC would have made it a two possession game. And, yes, it is sad that we can't relax until we have a three possession lead with under 20 seconds to play.
Stat of the game: This is why Jeff Nusser is the MVP of our blog. From his twitter feed: USC is No. 1 nationally in defense with .87 points per trip allowed; WSU scored 1.38 in second half.
It's a good night to be a Coug fan.