I have an early morning tomorrow, so I won't add too much to Nuss' excellent thoughts on the game below.
I will say this, from my viewpoint in Section 24: Tonight seemed to be a lot about the students, now back in Pullman, taking out their frustrations on tonight's officiating crew for what happened two weeks ago. That's not to say tonight's officials were excellent - far from it - but they were just run-of-the-mill inconsistent, not egregiously wrong. It probably would have helped the Cougs' cause if Mike Montgomery or Jerome Randle would have been T'd up for their clear over-the-top complaining. However, things evened out when WSU was not assessed a technical for fans throwing stuff on the floor (stay classy). This may be how it is all season. Right now, you do not want to be an official assigned to Pullman. We're out for blood, and I can't say I wasn't at least a little happy that the ZZU CRU showed some anger tonight. It's the anger I wish the WSU administration would have shown in the last two weeks.
Not that we're bitter or anything.
Now for the game, to sum up: I was surprised, but not shocked by Cal going off offensively to start. However, I was tremendously happy our young team didn't lay down. Not only did they make it a game, they made it a game by halftime. A remarkable feat for sure. The crowd loved it too. Of course it also resulted in what I now refer to as the 'Beasley Jinx': every time, and I mean every time the crowd gets really into it, something horrible happens. Tonight, with the whole arena standing up on the excitement of the Cougar comeback in the first half, it was Jerome Randle nailing a three to bring the Cal lead back to nine. Ugh.
In the second half, Cal just proved they are better. Make no mistake: the Bears are an elite offensive team, and the Cougars are no longer a good enough defensive team to string a few key stops together. That was the difference. That, and some untimely turnovers combined with a sub-par free-throw rate. However, we did rebound well against a good defensive rebounding team, and we shot well enough to keep things competitive. Still, this team often lives and dies with Klay Thompson's performance, and tonight it was more of the status quo.
Cal is likely the best team in this conference. Plus we happen to like their fanbase, which we can't really say about any other school in this conference (except maybe OSU). This loss doesn't hurt that bad when you consider that. The Cougs will take away some lessons, and it's on to Stanford.
Player of the Game: Reggie Moore. Career-high 25, on 50% shooting and a 9-for-10 effort from the line. He also dished 5 assists against 1 turnover, and added 2 steals. Phenomenal offensive night for the freshman, who looks like he's headed for stardom in this league.
Unsung Hero: Nikola Koprivica. Just start him already. 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting (3 of 6 threes), 8 boards to lead all players, an assist and a steal with just one sloppy turnover. It's well documented that I'm an Abe Lodwick fan, but you can't deny Koprivica's been playing at a high level.
Play of the Game: Marcus Capers had another thunderous dunk of an offensive rebound in the first half. The kid can get up.
It was over when... Cougs down six with under a minute to play: A Cal player slaps the ball out of DeAngelo Casto's hands and out of bounds. Of course, as is usual for our lovely incompetent Pac-10 officials, the play is called a jump ball. Possession goes over to Cal and the Cougs never recover. Not that we hadn't already had plenty of chances; it's just another chance to whine about poor officiating.
Stat of the Game: Jerome Randle's absurd stat line: 40 minutes, 39 points on 11 of 18 shooting (7 of 12 threes), 9 assists, 5 boards, 2 steals. Another short, senior guard from the Midwest that I'm excited to never have to see again in person.