It certainly wasn't a work of art, but coming on the heels of a three-game losing streak, we'll take what we can get at this point.
An 84-70 victory over Oregon State certainly passes the initial eye test, as double-digit victories signify some level of superiority. But the game was closer than that through most of the second half, as the Beavers climbed out of a 19-point, first-half hole to trail WSU by just 4 with 7:33 to go in the game.
It was a weird game. Early on, it looked like the Cougars might run away with it, as their shooting came alive in the first half. WSU shot 7 of 14 from 3-point range, led by Klay Thompson (13 points) and Faisal Aden (12 points). But Oregon State when on a small run to pull within 12 at the break. Truth be told, it had the feel of the Gonzaga game.
But the Cougs weren't able to recapture the magic in the second half, as the Beavers just kept whittling away, fueled largely by some long-range shooting of their own and turnovers by WSU.
We talked some this week about the jump shooting nature of this team and its potential as a double-edged sword. Sometimes you get the kind of shooting that bolts you out to a 19-point lead, but sometimes you get a streak of seven straight missed 3 pointers in a string of nine possessions like WSU had from 13:43 to 8:59 in the second half. The thing about shooters is that they always think the next shot is going in, so if the shot's there, they're going to keep shooting.
Of course, it's easy for us to see that shooting 3-pointers on 65 percent of your possessions -- as WSU was doing late into the game -- isn't the greatest strategy when you're nursing a lead. But when your team is full of shooters, this is what you get sometimes, especially when you're playing a team with a zone defense that's prone to giving up a ton of 3s.
Fortunately, Ken Bone did what good coaches do and tweaked the offense for the situation, moving Thompson to the high post. It's not something you'd do all game, because it moves Thompson away from his biggest weapon. But when a lead is dwindling and all a team needs is to hit a handful of 2-point buckets to put the game out of reach with time running down, putting Thompson -- at this moment the team's best passer, midrange shooter and penetrator -- into the triple threat position was a stroke of genius.
The result was a 17-6 run that gave WSU a 16-point lead with two minutes to go, effectively ending any realistic shot OSU had of winning the game.
There are a lot of things to like coming out of this game. Foremost among them? Sharing the basketball, always a key against a zone defense. Reggie Moore, who's obviously had a bit of a rough week, had nine assists tonight -- two more than he had in the previous three games combined. The team had 18 assists after totaling just 17 in Los Angeles. That's 69 percent of the team's 26 made baskets -- well above WSU's season mark of 48.7. Great sign.
Despite the cold shooting in the second half, it was still a sufficiently efficient performance for the offense -- roughly 1.12 points per possession, easily the highest since Baylor. Same goes for the defense: .93 points per possession for the Beavers, the lowest for them in a month. Solid.
And don't underestimate the value of the Cougs holding off a second-half charge from a team to not just win, but win going away. This is an OSU team that was playing with a lot of confidence after opening with a pair of conference wins at home, and the Beavers refused to go away. That WSU was able to adjust and put the game out of reach is another great sign.
There were negatives, such as the turnover percentage (25.3, high for us but actually less than OSU typically forces) and the second half offensive rebounding percentage for OSU (just a shade under 50, just awful). But overall, you shouldn't be displeased. It wasn't perfection, but it was plenty good enough.
One down, one to go. Now it's time to get Oregon on Saturday.
Klay Thompson Player Of The Game: Klay Thompson -- 29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals. The man just keeps topping himself. Those 10 rebounds? All defensive on a night when Oregon State used offensive rebounding to fuel its second half comeback.
Right-Hand Man: Faisal Aden -- 15 points, 5 of 11 shooting (3 of 7 3-pointers). I didn't see the game, so it's impossible to know if his shot selection was truly improved, but 11 shots in 32 minutes translates to Aden taking roughly 26.9 percent of the shots. That's what we want!
Unsung Hero: Reggie Moore -- 11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 2 steals. Reggie answers a tough week with perhaps his best statistical performance of the year. Great job for the young man.
Play Of The Game: Brock Motum's tip jam with roughly 12:00 minutes to go in the first half. Bud was twidderpated.
It Was Over When: Ken Bone put Klay Thompson in the high post for the final eight minutes and the all-everything forward led the team to the victory down the stretch.
Stat Of The Game: The Cougs' effective field goal percentage -- 61.8, highest since Baylor. You shoot, you win. Simple game.