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Washington State Vs. Gonzaga Recap: Klay Thompson Can Play In Big Games

The knock on Klay Thompson from some has been a perceived inability to play in big games. Sure, Thompson can light up a mid-major for 30 points on any given night, but he just can't hang with the best (others words, not mine). So tonight, as he suffered through a first half shooting slump, only hitting one field goal and scoring three points, it may have seemed like "here we go again." Not so, as Thompson started the second half getting to the hoop and finishing before hitting shots from all over the court. This was, according to Thompson himself, his best game at Washington State.

  • It wasn't just the scoring for Thompson, but everything else he did. 24 points, six rebounds, six assists, seven steals and one outstanding block. That, my friends, is a complete night. When his shot wasn't falling, he was making plays on the defensive end, keying transition buckets for his teammates. When it was falling, Thompson first set himself up, then built off that to set his teammates up, driving and dishing. I told Jeff that Klay would have a big game tonight and felt it was a good match-up. I win.
  • And the other scoring threat? Welcome back Faisal Aden. After a rough game against Kansas State, Aden bounced back in a big way, coming off the bench to add 14 points and three steals. His active hands, swiping at balls Robert Sacre left within reach. His defense still needs work, especially his footwork, but his ability to get a hand in the passing lane was a big help. Coming off the bench Aden added a spark, despite playing with a sore knee. For what it's worth, Aden said the knee was fine and he felt comfortable out there despite looking very doubtful earlier in the day.
  • Starting in place of DeAngelo Casto -- we forgot to ask why -- Brock Motum had to step-up. Faced with the task of guarding Robert Sacre and banging down in the low-post like a big boy, Motum stood in, hung tough and was impressive. Motum showed sure hands and a knack for being in the right spot for a drive-and-dish, finishing with eight points. His work on the defensive end, however, was impressive to me. Motum handled himself like a champ against Gonzaga's bigs.
  • Gonzaga turned the ball over 25 times. TWENTY FIVE. Six of those turnovers came in the form of offensive fouls. The Cougs were stepping into lanes, getting set and hanging-in to take charges. Tie-ups were also prevalent early on, with Lodwick and Thompson both tying-up Robert Sacre early. If you haven't noticed yet, Sacre seems to have an inability to chin the ball, leaving it there for the taking.
  • Patrick Simon finally showed what many of us already knew. Simon can be deadly when he gets his feet set and gets a look, doing just that while shooting 4-8 overall including 3-5 from three.
  • There was a subtle adjustment made on the offensive end. The pick-and-pop worked to near-perfection in the first half as WSU hit 6-11 threes. Gonzaga finally made a change, switching on the pick and, effectively, shutting down the outside shots. Instead of settling for outside shots, the Cougs used the mis-matches to their advantage, taking the ball to the rim. That second half run to put away the game? A direct results of the change. Ken Bone knows him some offense.
  • This was, according to Bone, the most active he's seen that zone here at WSU. The players weren't settling, but instead continued to work on the defensive end, keeping their hands up and getting into passing lanes. Most importantly, the players on the floor knew where Gonzaga's shooters were -- an emphasis of Bone's -- and closed out on them quickly. It kept the Zags from shooting over the zone, limiting them to just 4-18 shooting from three-point range.
  • Steven Gray: seven points. The job done by all the perimeter defenders, but especially by Reggie MooreMarcus Capers and Faisal Aden, working at the top of the 2-3, kept Gray from penetrating while quickly closing out on him as soon as he touched the ball. And when Gray did get into the lane, the other three collapsed, either taking a charge or contesting his shot. It was a great team effort.
  • Washington State won this game going away without the use of Casto for most of the game. Sitting with foul trouble, the trio of Abe Lodwick, Patrick Simon and Brock Motum came in and handled business. They all bring different skills -- Lodwick with the hustle, Simon with a deadly shot and Motum with, well, everything at this point -- and they combined to shut down both Robert Sacre and Elias Harris while providing some quick offense. Encouraging!
  • Sequence of the game? Sacre -- 7-foot-0 tall, mind you -- goes baseline, elevates and is rejected by Thompson. On the other end, Klay spots up and hits a three. Game, set, match.
This is why we said don't be too worried about what happened Friday against Kansas State. Tonight's game was what Friday night could've looked like had a few shots fallen. However, we all learned a lot about this team in the last week, as expected.

They can play tenacious defense, no matter zone or man-to-man. There's a ridiculous amount of scorers that can kill an opponent in a million ways. They will probably never be an outstanding rebounding team, but those shortcomings can be handled. There is depth in the post and Brock Motum has arrived. Be encouraged by what you saw. Be excited. This team, when its firing, can play with the best of them.