There's a lot to get to, and even less time to get to it. Let's start with the more heralded game; the Legends Classic final against #4 Pittsburgh.
#4 Pittsburgh 57, WSU 43
Right off the bat, you'll notice this game was closer than final score indicates, especially in the first half. But the reality is the Cougars never game themselves the opportunity to win. There are two reasons for this. Allow me to introduce you to the four factors to winning:
Reason #1 is turnovers. The one thing this team cannot do is turn the ball over. And what did we do? 15 team turnovers. That's actually not a season high. That occured with 17 turnovers in the MVSU game. In fact, the Cougars have had four games with 12 or more turnovers prior to last night and were 4-0 in those games.
The difference? None of those previous four teams were Pittsburgh. Against an opponent of this caliber WSU had to protect the ball. Turnover percent is an easy advanced stat to understand. It's simply turnovers divided by possessions. Last night WSU coughed up the ball on 25.9% of their possessions, compared to 13.8% for the Panthers. That's over one-fourth of the Cougars' posessions. For comparison, last year's Cougar squad turned the ball over 16.9% of the time.
Taylor Rochestie was responsible for eight of those turnovers - his third straight game with four or more turnovers. He had four tunovers total in the previous three games to open the season. We are learning now more than ever how important Rochestie is to this team. He got flustered last night by the Pitt defense, and tried to force passes instead of letting the game come to him. It's out of character for Rochestie, and he has to learn that being a team leader this doesn't mean trying to be a hero. He's already good enough; but with Low and Weaver no longer on his side I feel like Taylor's begun to try and take over games. The thing is he doesn't have to change anything from last year to be a great player.
I never thought I'd say this, but there were times last night when I was more comfortable with Marcus Capers running the offense than Rochestie. That's says a lot about how good Capers is, and a lot about how important it is for TR to take better care of the basketball.
Reason #2 is free throw rate. I watched the game at My Office in Pullman and yes, the officiating wasn't great. There were calls made on both sides when the person fouled wasn't even touched. However, while WSU outfouled Pitt 19-12 for the game, I don't necessarily think the officiating was blindly in favor of the Panthers. The Cougs were drawing fouls; the problem is they weren't drawing shooting fouls. Free throw rate is free throws attempted divided by field goals attempted. And WSU got flat out smoked in this category - 56.2% to 8.3%.
The Cougars were not agressive enough driving the lane and getting to the line. On the other hand, Pitt used its superior speed to get to the hoop and coax the officials to put them on the line, or get a short-range basket. A 9-0 Pitt run - sparked mostly by free throws - at the start of the second half was the difference in this game. The Cougs never recovered and the Panthers ran away in a relatively ugly game.
Still, there's reason for hope after the season's first loss. The Cougars played a terrible game in terms of protecting the ball and getting to the line. And still, they were within 10 points of the fourth-ranked team in the country for the majority of the game. Had some of the threes fell (WSU was 3 for 13), and if Pitt didn't have the athleticism of Levance Fields and Sam Young leading them to the charity stripe, the Cougars could have (maybe even should have) won this game.
Player of the Game: Daven Harmeling. Team-high 12 points, making four of nine three-point attempts. He did not attempt a single shot inside the arc. The strange thing is that usually when Daven has a good night shooting the ball, the result is a Cougar victory. Tonight his 66 eFG% wasn't nearly enough for WSU.
Play of the Game: Daven Harmeling hits a three to make it 21-19 in favor of the Cougars. Unfortunately, it would be the last time WSU would have a lead in the game.
Stat of the Game: Pitt made five times as many free throws (20) as WSU attempted (4).
Hawai'i 24, WSU 10 (Football)
There are worse things in life than 2-11. Such as, for example, being regarded as the worst team in Pac-10 history. Washington will get a chance to make their case next weekend, but for now the Cougars avoid futility in at least one respect.
Kevin Lopina only attempted six passses, completing two before J.T. Levenseller came on in relief in the second quarter. Levy was 6 of 11 for 53 yards. Lopina finishes the season without a passing touchdown (he did have three rushing scores). On the bright side, neither QB threw a pick against the Warriors.
Still, Hawai'i was too much for WSU through the air, with 315 yards and two passing scores. WSU got as close as 17-10 in the third, until Michael Washington put the game away with a 44 yard receiving TD for Hawai'i.
This season is in the books, and at least there was some improvement shown against a bowl-eligible Hawai'i team. Still, this was a mostly forgettable season, save one game. I'll have a season-ending recap down the road, but for now let's remember the Apple Cup and look forward to next season.
Player of the Game: Dwight Tardy: 15 carries for 53 yards and the only TD.
Play of the Game: Brandon Gibson takes a reverse for 17 yards, setting up the Tardy TD. Gibson had only one catch for 18 yards in his final game as a Cougar. Good luck in the pros, Brandon. I think I speak for everyone at Wazzu when I say thanks for a great four years.
Stat of the Game: WSU was 3 for 11 on third down attempts.