Sorry for the lack of substantive writing lately -- I know people often say, "I'm so busy!", but my life has reached sort of comical levels. In the past, I've found the time to write something at least semi-thoughtful each day, even in my busyness. The fact that I haven't been able to do even that should tell you something.
Anyway, I did get to watch the game last night, and while I don't really have the time to put together any hardcore breakdowns, I do have some casual observations to pass along.
First off, I know it's tempting to wonder if these guys are finally -- FINALLY -- starting to put it together after 30-something games. While the game wasn't a blowout, the outcome certainly never really felt in danger, and they did it with Reggie Moore and Faisal Aden combining for five points and three assists. When you get Brock Motum (17 points), Abe Lodwick (9 points) and Marcus Capers (8 points) contributing offensively, when you share the ball at critical moments, you can look awful good -- like 1.14 points per possession good. It was the fourth-highest offensive efficiency allowed by Oklahoma State this season.
But we've been down this road before, only to end up in a place we could hardly fathom. The only thing consistent about this team is its inconsistency. And I, for one, refuse to be fooled again, so no declarative statements from me on the meaning of it all.
Still, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it.
Klay Thompson, while a little looser with his shot selection than what I would consider ideal, was awesome again -- he set the pace early, then was content to let others do the scoring when Oklahoma State decided that their best defense against him was to run two guys at him every time he touched the ball. I can't remember the last time I saw that with a perimeter player. And while he only ended up with two assists, my guess is that if we counted up the "hockey assists" (where his pass led to the pass that led to the score), he would have had a lot more.
The Klay Thompson of last year would have kept forcing shots even as the defense adjusted. The Klay Thompson I've loved watching all year was content to continue to hunt his shot -- he wasn't passive -- but also allow the defense's overcompensation for his talents open things up for teammates. That's such a tremendous leap from where he was 12 months ago that I try real hard not to think about where he'll be in a year if he should decide to return for his senior season. The words "all-American" and "Pac-10 player of the year" have a nice ring to them.
I also want to single out DeAngelo Casto, who didn't pile up huge numbers (11 points, five rebounds) but was an absolute force on both ends of the floor. He missed a number of shots, but he was able to get to the line consistently and absolutely neutralize Oklahoma State's best weapon -- Marshall Moses -- by saddling him with foul trouble. And defensively? How about four blocks, the last of which frustrated Moses so bad that he threw an elbow into Casto's chest. That's when you know you're in someone's head.
It was part of a very good defensive effort that saw the Cougs hold the Cowboys to 0.99 points per possession. It wasn't a superlative effort; there were too many open perimeter looks for my liking. But when the other team can't shoot its way out of a paper bag, so to speak, it works out OK in the end. It also helped that the rebounding came alive -- OSU only secured 27 percent of its own misses after averaging nearly 32 percent in Big 12 play. Credit goes to the entire team for that one: Six different players had at least three rebounds. Stellar.
The game wasn't perfect -- pretty sure I never want to see Lodwick take nine shots again, despite his making three 3s -- but no game ever is. It was efficient, and it was probably the most well-rounded game this team has played since beating UW the second time in Seattle.
A lot of people say the NIT doesn't matter. And in the grand scheme of things, it's certainly not the NCAA Tournament. But where I just wanted last season to end, I'm excited these guys are still playing -- both because more basketball is rarely a bad thing, and because I think it's pretty clear this team is still improving. And that's a positive thing moving forward.
Here are some notes that I thought you might find interesting which were passed along by WSU Sports Information:
- Thompson has now scored 20 or more points in seven consecutive games.
- Thompson's 710 points this season are the most by a Pac-10 player since Ike Diogu scored 724 points during the 2004-05 season ... third most since 1993-94.
- WSU advances to the third round of the NIT for just the second time...the other time was in the 1995 NIT when the Cougars fell to Canisius, 89-80 at Buffalo.
- WSU has won all five of its NIT home games...moved to 6-4 overall in the tournament.
After the jump, you'll find charts and some postgame video with Ken Bone, Thompson and Lodwick.