I think it's safe to say we didn't see this coming.
Granted, I thought this was a game the Cougs should win. This was a home game, the WSU roster is finally getting healthy (for the most part), Reggie Moore is back and the Zags look to be a rebuilding project this season (A rebuilding project that I still believe can win the WCC).
I thought the Cougs would win in a close one. Down to the wire type stuff. Maybe a clutch three or some relief at the free throw line would save us. Best case scenario? Cougs pull away late and win by ten. Worst case? Zags win and the Cougs feel like another opportunity has passed them by.
Then, Klay Thompson and his teammates changed everything.
We saw a glimpse of what this team could be in the first half. Playing stellar defense - holding the Zags to a long scoring drought to open the game, and then raining threes to open up an early 19 point lead. Then we saw 2009 rear its ugly head. The Zags stormed back to make it a close game at halftime, and it looked like one of those "They came all the way back from 19 down!" type of contests.
Except the Cougs weren't having it. They stormed out of the gates to open the second half in similar fashion to the first.
I kept waiting for it to happen, though. I knew the Zags had another run in them. With about 10 minutes left I seriously considered turning off my TV because I figured nothing good could come of watching the rest of the game. But I kept it on. And good things kept happening. The Cougs gave up a 6-0 run, but it was almost more out of sportsmanship than competitiveness. When the lightswitch was flipped back on the Cougs coasted to victory.
WSU won this game by forcing 24 turnovers and shooting the lights out. The Zags should have made more perimeter shots; but the Cougs should have made more of their free throws.
In the end, we saw the most satisfying WSU victory since the dismantling of the Jon Brockman/Ryan Appleby Huskies a few years ago. Enjoy these games. You have to. We let the lows in sports get us so down, but rarely get excited about the highs. Gonzaga is still Gonzaga. Celebrate this.
Player of the Game: Klay Thompson. 24 points, 7 steals, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 8 of 14 shooting, 2 turnovers. The best game of his career as a Cougar.
Right Hand Man: Patrick Simon. The kid can shoot. 3 of 5 from three en route to 11 points.
Unsung Hero: Faisal Aden. Coming off the bench, and fighting a knee injury, Aden quietly put together a 14 point outburst, complete with 3 assists and 2 steals. All during limited minutes, thanks to a rather sketchy officiating crew.
Play of the Game: This is easy. Klay Thompson's block of Rob Sacre that would later lead to his own transition three. One play summed up how Klay changed the game on both ends of the floor.
It was over when... I'll go with the Aden breakaway dunk that stopped the Zags' last gasp... that 6-0 run with 7 or 8 minutes to play.