I'll get to the awards in a second, but let's first re-live the horror that was yesterday. Shall we?
Does anyone have any idea why this team keeps giving up backbreaking runs? Let's have a sampling of what has happened to WSU in the second half of games this season.
at Arizona: Led 39-32, Gave up 24-2 run, lost 66-56.
vs. USC: Led 35-28, Gave up 16-6 run, lost 46-44.
vs. UW: Tied 30-30, Gave up 11-2 run, lost 68-48.
at LSU: Led 47-40, Gave up 24-5 run, lost 64-52.
vs. Gonzaga: Trailed 32-31, Gave up 28-2 run, lost 74-52
vs. Pittsburgh: Trailed 29-26, Gave up 11-1 run, lost 57-43
Did I cherry pick my games? Certainly. And have we done the opposite to other teams this year (Remember OSU? - which, by the way, looks like a fairly impressive road win at this point)? You bet. But what the heck? This isn't the Cougar team we're used to.
This team suffers from a severe case of FAS - Falling Apart Syndrome. The Cougars losing their composure? Turning the ball over? Letting fast-paced teams like Gonzaga and Washington control the tempo? Getting beat by the full-court press?
What happened to us?
The loss of Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver.
Much has been made of their offensive prowess, and how losing that has really hurt us in the scoring column. But one thing we haven't discussed very often is how losing the two best ballhandlers on our team is killing us in the turnover department. Last year, you could go to one of Low, Weaver or Rochestie and rest assured that we wouldn't get weaseled into bad plays or turnovers by a pressing defense. Now? The only person we can trust with the ball consistently is Rochestie - and even he can be guilty of the occasional mental lapse.
Now - were we spoiled with Derick and Kyle? Heck yes. Take a look at the turnover rate and national rank from the last three seasons.
So - this year we aren't actually that bad at turning the ball over, when you look at the tempo-free stats. 64th in any stat category nationally is pretty darn sweet.
But the last two years? Good God. This team simply did not turn the ball over. Not only did we protect our possessions, but we had Weaver, Low and Cowgill to make the most of them. Now we have less possessions, less shots, and a worse offense to take them.
The margin for error is so slim. That's why if you can't have someone light it up from outside like Klay Thompson on Thursday, we're done.
Against Arizona yesterday, Klay went 2 for 7 and Daven went 3 for 10 from behind the arc. We just can't afford shooting like that, even though it really isn't that awful (the eFG on those shots would be 45% for Harmeling and 43% for Thompson).
And, because our team sacrifices offensive rebounding to prevent the transition game, our possessions are more valuable to us than they are to, say, Arizona. And since we are atrocious at getting to the free throw line (335th nationally in FT rate), we need to be able to get good shots, and make shots. But you get zero shots out of the possessions where you turn the ball over.
Equally frustrating is how a team with four seniors can be the ones giving up runs like this. Except it's not really the seniors fault - Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling and Aron Baynes are all nationally ranked (top 350) in turnover rate (lack of turnovers). Rochestie may struggle a bit at times, but his assist to turnover ration is still 2:1. Not bad at all. [Side note - if you want to know how awesome Taylor is, note his assists per game - 4.7, are the same as last year, when he had superior talent to throw the ball to]
The bottom line is this team is young. We used to have the luxury of pulling Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling and Nikola Koprivica off the bench. We don't anymore. Behind them, the depth has been seriously compromised. Not because of talent, but because of experience.
Even though we had Kyle and Derrick in 2004 and 2005, our turnover rate was 22.0 both seasons (good for 212th and 206th nationally, respectively).That's much worse than this season (of course, so were are teams at that time).
Young talent is great to have. But it's not until the young talent grows together that you really get something special. That's why in two years when Thompson, Capers, Casto et. al are grown up, we'll wonder why the heck this team wasn't dominating this season. But by that point we'll have both experience and an influx of ballhandlers - most notably Xavier Thames and Anthony Brown next fall.
Hang in there - right now we have to just watch this team grow up. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Mid-Pac-10 Season Awards
Player of the first half - Aron Baynes
Ladies and Gentlemen, Aron Baynes' points and rebounds from the first half of the Pac-10 season.
This ain't at the Huskies tempo, folks.
Oh yeah, he's also shooting 54.5% from the floor, 86% from the free throw line and 100% from three-point range in conference play.
Newcomer of the first half - Klay Thompson - I don't need to explain this, right?
Unsung hero of the first half - DeAngelo Casto - Mainly for his defense, but also for his ability to get to the line and occasionally do something else on offense. Now if only he could finish close to the basket like Aron.
Hardest luck of the first half - Daven Harmeling/Abe Lodwick (tie) - They are both better shooters than the numbers would have you believe.
Tremendous upside potential Award - Marcus Capers - Trust me, we haven't heard or seen the last from him this year.
Defensive player of the first half - The team - How's that for a cop out? But really, the team defense has been about as phenomenal as last year, without a true individual star like Kyle Weaver.
Play of the first half:
Here's to the second half being better than the first. No reason to give up now.