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USC pulls away late to beat WSU

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The Cougars were in the game, until they weren't.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Super Bowl Sunday. You'll hear an oft-used cliche´from coaches in nearly every sport that goes, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish." For the seven-point underdog WSU basketball team on Saturday, that could not have been more accurate. Even the middle was ok, but it wasn't enough to overcome USC's athleticism, something with which the Cougars have struggled all season.

The game began with WSU scoring 14 of the first 17 points (in just 3:30), capped by a Josh Hawkinson three-pointer. USC then made a couple threes of its own, and thus began what would largely be a back-and-forth affair. The Cougs clung to the lead for most of the first half, but in a preview of the second second half, WSU fell victim to a USC run. Following an an Ike Iroegbu layup to give WSU a 31-28 lead, the Trojans closed out the first half with a 10-2 spurt to take a 38-33 lead into halftime.

The second half began much like the first half ended, which was bad for the Cougars. USC doubled its lead to 10 points in the first three minutes, capped by a De'Anthony Melton three-pointer which caused Ernie Kent to call timeout. I'm not sure what Ernie Kent said to the team in the huddle, but it certainly lit a fire, as the Cougs ran off nine straight points to close within one.

WSU didn't stop there, taking a 59-57 lead just a few minutes later. Then, well, USC put another huge brick into the "momentum isn't actually a thing" wall. Jonah Williams drilled a three-pointer just 10 seconds later, igniting a 10-0 run. Malachi Flynn hit a pretty jumper to close within six, but that was as close as WSU would get. The 86-77 final doesn't really give an accurate picture of the tightness of the game, but USC did what they needed to do down the stretch, and WSU couldn't keep up.

Jacob Thorpe had a couple telling lines from his game story that sum up both this game and the WSU team as it is currently constructed:

Right now the Cougars are just good enough to make you care, but closing remains elusive.

WSU...has improved considerably since last season...But the team will lose four starters to graduation this offseason and does not use much of its bench. Fatigue is a likely culprit in these late losses – USC did not have any players on the court for more than 32 minutes while WSU had four players play 35 minutes or more.

As an aside, Andy Enfield has done quite a job turning USC around. Pat Haden made a seemingly rash hire when he plucked Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast after one two-win NCAA Tournament run. However, USC is 20-4 and a near lock for the field of 68 this season.

As for this game, Josh Hawkinson turned in yet another solid performance, scoring 17 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Iroegbu led the way in scoring with 22. He also added nine assists. Malachi Flynn struggled a good bit Saturday, hitting just four of 14 shots (1-8 from long range).

The Cougars were lit up by yet another athletic forward, as Chimezie Metu abused WSU for 29 points in just 32 minutes, on 12-14(!!!) shooting. I guess it helps your percentage when nine of your 12 made field goals are layups or dunks.

WSU now sits at 11-12 and heads to the mountains next weekend, starting with a game at Utah Thursday night. It can't go much worse than the last time they played Utah, right? Right?!

Basketball

Southern Cal pulls away from competitive Cougars for 86-77 win | The Spokesman-Review
Once again it was an athletic forward who put the Cougars away. Chimezie Metu had 29 points and made 12 of 14 shots, including six dunks against a WSU frontline that was not athletic enough to stay in front of him.

Chimezie Metu leads USC men’s basketball victory at Washington State
Chimezie Metu scored a career-high 29 points, grabbed eight rebounds and USC shot 73.9 percent in the second half to outlast Washington State 86-77 on Saturday night for its first conference road-trip sweep since 2011.

Football

Re-ranking the Pac-12 recruiting classes from 2014
Six of the top seven players in this class, as ranked by ESPN.com, were not on the roster in 2016.

Pac-12 quarterback recruits: Slim chance for success
Please note Washington State’s 2013 class: It featured a 4-star recruit, Tyler Bruggman, who never played, then transferred. But none of the scouting services bothered to included a walk-on who would eventually be placed on scholarship: Luke Falk.

Ranking the 2017 Pac-12 football non-conference schedules
Mr. Wilner hasn't been paying attention if he thinks Mike Leach has any interest in a tough non-conference schedule.

National Signing Day, 10 years later: After recruits choose their schools, anything can happen | The Washington Post
Everyone is a star on National Signing Day. A look back at 2007's top recruits shows anything can happen from there.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: Had some Avery Vanilla Bean Stout this week, which never disappoints. However, I'm going on spec today and calling my shot that Brooklyn Black Ops will be the best beer I've had in a while. At least that's the hope. Hopefully you enjoy some good beer yourself during the Super Bowl today. As with most sporting events, thank your lucky stars if you live out west. The game starts at 6:30 EST this evening. When I'm in charge, the Super Bowl will take place on Saturday.

In the cans versus bottles battle, craft beer brewers and drinkers differ - MarketWatch
Beer Can Appreciation Day was marked this month, and craft beer brewers have never appreciated cans as much as they do now.

Non-Sports

Murderous Manila: On the Night Shift | by James Fenton | The New York Review of Books
There are two chief kinds of carnage taking place here, these wet Manila nights.