Happy charts tonight:
Well, it wasn't easy, and it wasn't always pretty, but the Cougars have put themselves in the Pac-10 win column.
It's a shame. Had the correct call been made Thursday we'd be talking about all the positives from this weekend instead of the one glaring negative. There's the emergence and success of James Watson, giving us some much-needed depth under the basket. The strong play of Xavier Thames, giving us another ballhandler and jump-shooting threat. The fact we won a game tonight without Klay Thompson for the final five minutes. On the postgame show Bone mentioned that as a sign this team is improving before our eyes. Then there's Casto refusing to back down against Michael Dunigan on Thursday. The team's resiliency in coming back from a double-digit deficit.
The defense has improved as well. At times. You'll have to forgive me for bashing the 2-3 zone in the gamethread - I had to miss the first half due to work - and did not realize that it was effective in shutting down the poor perimeter-shooting Beavers in the first half. However, in the second half, the Cougars were failing to close out on shooters and OSU came right back. Bone went to the man-to-man to finish out the game, and sure enough it was a defensive play (a taken charge) that helped the Cougars seal the deal after relinquishing a nine point lead. It's been a tough transition at times from the Bennett defensive philosophy to the Bone one. Tonight's game gives us some hope that success may be just around the corner.
Make no mistake - the Cougars could have made this one comfortable with better foul shooting. WSU, normally an excellent team at the stripe, was 16-for-29 and missed two key one-and-ones on the same possession late in the second half. Compare that to Oregon State's 15-for-15 effort and you come close to negating the advantage the Cougars received from their remarkable free throw rate. Still, the Cougars shot well with the game in motion, especially inside the arc (17 for 30), protected the ball well enough and closed the game down the stretch. 1-1 looks a lot better than 0-2, especially with a road trip on the way.
Player of the Game: Reggie Moore. When Klay is limited, someone else has to take the reins of the offense and tonight it was Reggie. 7 of 13 from the floor, 3 of 6 from three, a career-high 19 points and three steals. Not to mention a huge three to give the Cougs some breathing room after a late Oregon State run. Now if only he didn't miss five of his seven free throw attempts...
Unsung Hero: Marcus Capers. A double-double with ten points and ten rebounds, Capers was efficient (5 for 8 from the field), and led the team in minutes with 35. For such a small team, Capers brings some height and rebounding ability to the guard position, which will be a huge asset for us going forward.
Play of the Game: Again, I missed the first half, but the moment for me was Marcus Capers driving the baseline for a dunk to end a 7-0 run by Oregon State and help keep the offense afloat while Klay sat on the bench with four fouls. Honorable mention to the beautiful Koprivica to Casto assist that put the Cougs up 60-58 with 3:03 to play. The Cougs never relinquished the lead after that.
It was over when... Xavier Thames nailed two free-throws to secure the game with 2 seconds remaining.
Stat of the Game: Prior to tonight, WSU shot 74.6% from the free throw line, 27th best nationally and best in the Pac-10. Tonight: 55.2%