Some happy charts for your Sunday:
This was an odd game, for so many reasons. So let's touch upon a couple of them.
Bennett ball fans got the joyous schadenfreude of watching two teams miss a good number of open shots, in a slow paced game. In fact, statsheet had the number of possessions at 57, which would make it 11 whole possessions slower than the usual Cougar game this year. Very often, the Cougs operated out of the halfcourt offense, and had few transition opportunities. It's refreshing to see WSU win a game at this pace - it shows we aren't necessarily out of luck when the opponent purposely tries to slow us down.
This is why offensive rebounding is important: by rebounding a better percentage of the available misses, the Cougs put themselves in a position to win this game. It's remarkable, because USC has big, athletic forwards, and quite frankly should have had us beat in this category. USC's defense is 49th best in the country at preventing offensive boards. Nikola Vucevic is bigger than he looks on TV, and has a knack for finding the ball (USC-high 7 boards last night). But the trio of Casto, Lodwick and Capers (yes, Capers) combined for eight offensive boards that were huge in the outcome of this game. It's been brought up before, and it's true: when the frontcourt is scoring and rebounding, we don't need an offensive outburst by Klay Thompson.
The other very important advantage for WSU came in free throw rate. USC presented the Cougs with their usual, stifling defense, and WSU seperated themselves in the final outcome by scoring at the line, where defense doesn't affect shots. Of course, the Cougs shot themselves in the foot by missing a cringe-inducing 10 of 24 FT attempts. It wasn't a team issue, though: Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto combined for eight of those ten misses. Casto made up for it with his shooting performance from the field; Klay didn't.
Which brings me to Klay's rough night. I don't have an answer for this, other than he seems to be suffering from the same kind of shooting slump that brought Derrick Low back down to Earth from time to time. The difference early in the season was that Klay was getting to the foul line, and driving the lane for easier buckets in the paint. As the season's worn on, and Klay has tired, he seems to be doing less of this. Which is a problem. If the threes aren't falling - and they haven't been, except for the California game - Klay is almost a non-factor scoring the ball. He has to get some of the same aggressiveness back that keeps Reggie Moore effective. Less jump shots, more foul shots.
Still, we have to lay off Klay a little. He's not superman, at least not yet. He will come around.
If the Cougs had just hit their free throws, this game wouldn't have been in doubt for so long. On the other hand, if USC had hit some more open jumpers, the Cougs would've been in trouble late. With those things negating each other, the Cougs won a hard-fought, ugly battle.
Dick Bennett would've been proud. Angry, but proud.
Player of the Game: Abe Lodwick. A banner night for the Abe Lodwick Fan Club. 11 points (3/6, 1/3) with 4 boards (2 offensive) and a steal in only 20 minutes. A surprise return to the starting lineup may just have been what the doctor ordered.
Unsung Hero: DeAngelo Casto. 11 points and 7 boards, on 5 of 9 shooting, with 3 blocks.
It was over when... Klay hits a free throw to make it 51-47 with 4 seconds remaining.
Play of the Game: Reggie's ginormous three to make it 48-44 with 51 seconds left. Would've been a backbreaker if WSU had made their free throws.
Stat of the Game: Has to be Klay's 0-for-12 performance - not because it was indicative of the outcome - but because I can guarantee you we won't see another night that bad from number 1. We'll laugh at this box score someday.