Before I get on with the recap, allow me to reintroduce myself.
My name is Jeff Nusser, and I used to write multiple posts a day for a blog called CougCenter.com. But then a foot of snow blanketed our poor little Western Washington community, thwarting my normal means of Internet access (at work) and more or less stranding me in my home thanks to the treacherous stretch of road that separates me from civilization -- Buttes Drive East, the steepest maintained road in Pierce County, Wash. (And by maintained, we mean the home owners' association having a little bit of sand dropped on a 15 percent grade. Kind of like spitting in the ocean, but whatever.)
Thankfully, I made it down off the hill today to the awesome Orting public library -- gotta get the most use out of those exorbitant property taxes I pay, you know -- and am finally here for you, the faithful readers, with a quick recap of what had to be one of the ugliest games of all time last night.
I wasn't at the game, didn't get to listen to the game, and (obviously) wasn't able to follow a gamecast, so my insights are more or less limited to statistical analysis and Vince Grippi's reporting. But I'll give you what I've got, hoping to live up to Grady's recap standards.
This was a close, ugly game that was played at a ridiculously slow pace, even by the WSU standards -- 53 possessions, compared to 60 normally. There was really poor shooting and incredibly physical play, and only a Klay Thompson layup near the buzzer had the Cougs up by two heading into the break.
After 10 more tight minutes, the WSU defense finally took over. Idaho probably was suffering from some tired legs as the Cougs were finding theirs, and WSU held Idaho to just three points over the final 10:59. (Just look at those long gray lines in the second half in the game flow above. Those are scoreless stretches for the Vandals.) That stretch of defensive domination led to the Cougs allowing just 77 defensive efficiency overall, fourth lowest of the season.
The Cougs obviously didn't overwhelm Idaho -- at least not offensively -- but I really don't think there is any cause for alarm. WSU had a cold shooting first half in a game that was their first in eight days, but played good enough defense to overcome it.
I suppose that's the mark of a good team, winning when not scoring a ton of points, but I sure would start feeling a lot better about this particular incarnation of the Cougs if they would start showing some major positive strides on the offensive end. It killed them against Pitt and Baylor, and if it doesn't get shored up soon, it's going to kill them in Pac-10 play, if not on Saturday against a coach that knows the Cougars inside and out.
CougCenter.com Player of the Game: Aron Baynes and his 18 points and 9 rebounds. Baynes is far and away the Cougs' most efficient offensive player right now, and he's just adding fuel to the "Baynes needs more touches" post I'm working on. And he didn't exactly do it against a physically overmatched opponent -- Idaho center Marvin Jefferson is 6-10/235, certainly beefy enough to contend.
An honorable mention goes to Taylor Rochestie, who had a serviceable offensive night (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) despite continuing to struggle shooting from the outside, but made his biggest contribution in limiting Mac Hopson to just 10 points.
CougCenter.com Play of the Game: We'll defer to Mr. Grippi on this one.
With Idaho in a zone, Thompson launched a 3-pointer from the right side that hit the rim and bounded into the air. The WSU bigs were blocked out, but freshman Marcus Capers, celebrating his 19th birthday, came flying in from the left side and tipped in the miss. The Cougars led by six, 8 minutes remained, and WSU’s first road game of the season was basically over.