Alright, we want to yell at Ken Bone too, right now. There were some unforgivable defensive lapses in this game, and on a couple occasions it seemed like the players quit. Inexcusable. I was at the game and thought about booing after the uncontested UCLA layup (out of the halfcourt offense, no less) late in the second half. But I didn't. And I'm glad.
Look, it's natural to want Bennett Ball back. It was disciplined. Consistent. A crutch to fall back on even when our offense was at our most horrific. But Bennett Ball also produced this game. I know, it's Gonzaga on the road, and one of the better Zag teams last decade (still didn't make the Sweet 16), but the Cougs gave up a defensive efficiency of 149.4. Do you have any idea how insane that is? Remember, average is about 100.0. We gave up 119.0 tonight, and our worst this season was 128.8 to Cal in that five point home loss. That was our worst, and Dick Bennett still topped it in his first season (not to mention the infamous 81-29 OK State meltdown in his second year). Anyone calling for Bennett's dismissal after that? If you were, history has proven you to be insane.
Fact is, if our offense doesn't perform so horribly in this game we're not really harping on the defense as much. It was bad, don't get me wrong - you can't win games letting the other team shoot 65.9% (72.7 eFG%). However, the offense was equally poor tonight. And like I said on the podcast a couple days ago, this seems to be a team that lets their defensive intensity live and die with their performance on offense. When the Cougs make shots, they simply look more committed to defense, and commit less of the ticky-tack fouls and breakdowns that were common tonight.
WSU has now lost 6 of 7, 8 of 11, so say goodbye to that "Hey we might just be Top 3 in this awful conference!" pipe dream we all were having. This team is what it is. For every Oregon and Stanford game we should have won, there's a USC or Arizona or LSU that we could have just as easily have lost. Consistently inconsistent is a good description of a young team like this - the 331st youngest in the nation.
I've also felt this team would only have a chance if they avoided the dreaded 2-3 game losing streak. For a while the Cougs were very good at this. Now they've fallen apart, and the new goal the rest of the way seems to be pulling it together enough to avoid the 8-9 play-in game at the conference tourney.
I hate seeing our team quit. I hope Bone screamed his head off in the locker room. Some of it is his fault. Having said that, I haven't seen this sort of effort enough to classify it as a trend, or some sign that this team is off course. Besides, Ken Bone has two decades of coaching experience and I have none, so why on Earth should he have to listen to me second guess him?
Anyway, I do appreciate you fellow CougCenterers, especially those of you who have fought hard to keep your cool and follow the community guidelines even when you're criticizing Bone. You guys (or gals in some cases) know who you are, and you're awesome. Those who aren't in that category will be subjected to a marathon viewing session of Paul Graham coached games to remind you where we once were.
The sky isn't falling, and some day after a big win next year we'll forget that this stretch happened at all.
[In happier news, the women got another huge road win - this time at USC - so, yay]
Player - Reggie Moore. 11 points (3/5), 4 boards, 3 assists, 4 steals.
Unsung Hero - Tough call, especially since only two Cougs ended up in double figures. I'm going to go with Xavier Thames, who only scored 4 points in 19 minutes, but did it on 50% shooting, had 3 assists and most importantly NO turnovers. Something I'd like to see more of.
Play of the Game - The Capers dunk in the first half, off a nice feed from X, I believe.
It was over when... Somewhere in that mess of a second half.
Stat of the Game - The 72.7 eFG% (factors in twos plus threes) given up by the Cougs, by far the worst shooting defense this season.