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WSU had Arizona on the ropes, until it didn’t

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It was another case of “almost” against the Wildcats.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. If college basketball games were decided in part by uniform design, the Washington State Cougars would have dispatched of the Arizona Wildcats and their ghastly gradients on Saturday evening in Pullman. Unfortunately, the quality of the look is not nearly as important as the quality of the foul shooting, and thus WSU was unable to capture an all-too-rare win over one of the conference’s traditional heavyweights.

Despite playing with a very rough hand, missing multiple contributors and losing a couple more to foul trouble during the game, the Cougs hung tough and probably should have kept their perfect record intact. While that alone - along with the fact that this is the first time that WSU lost at home to Arizona by fewer than 14 points since 2012 - should be even more evidence that this team is on the rise, losses like this are tough to stomach when victory is so close.

The game was certainly not a work of art, as the teams combined to shoot 56/144 (39%) from the field, including makes on just 12 of 50 3-point attempts. However, and I’m sure anyone who watched or read about the game is painfully aware, while the Wildcats sank 25 of their 32 free throws, WSU coughed and wheezed its way to 19 of 37. There’s your ballgame.

Isaac Bonton, who was vital in keeping WSU close throughout, summed things up pretty well in his postgame comments.

“It’s tough because we didn’t control what we could control. … Things we can control and we’ve got to take care of that because I don’t feel like there’s no moral victories for us. We were good enough to put ourselves in a position to win and we just didn’t close.”

These games are the kind that sting now, but will probably fade over time if the team is able to string together a decent season. However, if WSU is in contention for a postseason spot a couple months down the road, the pain of a loss like Saturday night will bubble right back to the surface. WSU needs to win these games if it wants to have a legitimate shot at postseason play. Shorthanded lineup or not, the folks on the committees don’t care much that you tried really hard and almost won.

That said, hopefully WSU is good enough over the course of season that we’re able to have that discussion at all, because it’ll mean that they took yet another giant step forward in Kyle Smith’s second year. At full strength, this team can hang with anyone in the conference, and it’s been a long, long time since we’ve been able to say that. The rub there is that, given the current state of affairs throughout the globe, a full strength team may not always be out there.

WSU next heads to the Bay Area, where it is scheduled - stress scheduled - to face the California Golden Bears on Thursday and Stanford Cardinal on Saturday. Cal sports a 5-6 record and 140 KenPom ranking, and this will be an eminently winnable game for the Cougs. Then again, WSU has not played a true road game this season, and mustered just one conference road win all of last season over the still-terrible Washington Huskies. If WSU has designs on bigger and better things in 2021, this is a must-win. Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be carried on everyone’s favorite network.

Basketball

Free throw miscues costly for Washington State as shorthanded Cougars lose to Arizona 86-82 in 2OT | The Spokesman-Review
“Obviously really proud of our guys, the way they competed being a little shorthanded tonight,” Smith said. “I think everyone that got in the game was ready to compete and did a really good job.”

Terrell Brown's banked-in 3 helps Arizona pull out 86-82 double-OT thriller over Washington State | Arizona Wildcats basketball | tucson.com
WSU dropped to 8-1 and 1-1, having yet to play on the road this season.

Seen and heard: On cardboard cutouts, COVID-19 tests and hoops on the Palouse | Arizona Wildcats basketball | tucson.com
While Pullman is always a quiet place when school isn’t in session, it’s been even more so this year, with most classes being held virtually.

This Week in Parenting

Not a moment too soon, school is scheduled to start back up on Monday. Well, kind of. Due to the fact that US DoD schools tend to follow along with host nation guidelines, the boys are not scheduled to go back to in-person learning until after MLK Day. That means at least two more weeks of virtual school, during which they have to figure out how to complete 90 minutes of work over the course of the entire day. Naturally, MLK weekend carries with it an off day Friday, because if there’s anything these kids need, it’s more off time during which nobody can go anywhere.

Overheard from the nine year-old last Sunday, as he was preparing to get in the shower, “My but is really moist. No, seriously.” Okie dokie.

I think I mentioned that we got Disney+ for the kiddos last week, and Team Kendall made a decision to plow through the first two seasons of The Mandalorian (we have one episode left). One of the early episodes featured the Gypsy-like characters known as the Jawas, who decided to plunder a space ship while it was left unoccupied. When there was another opportunity to repeat that scene a few episodes later, the nine year-old said, “Hopefully the strippers don’t come back.” It took a second to figure out what he meant - he didn’t want The Mandalorian’s ship to be stripped of its parts again. However, I still pointed out to Mrs. Kendall that this was probably the first time anyone has ever said, “Hopefully the strippers don’t come back.”

Beer

Best Beer I had this week: I know it wasn’t Magnus Opus, by Omnipollo. That beer was so bad that the brewery issued a 30 Euro credit to anyone who ordered it (it came as part of a holiday gift pack). It was really gross. On the “good” front was Omnipollo’s Mango Space Food. Totally redeemed yourself!

Best wine subscription and club: The Panel, Winc, Vinebox and more compared
Monthly deliveries of rare beers, hoppy beers, brewery merch and more.

Non-Sports

A German Terrorist Suspect With a Refugee Disguise: The Tale of Franco A. - The New York Times
A German officer is facing trial on terrorism charges. At a volatile time for Western democracy, his story mirrors the story of Germany itself.

SoulCycle changed fitness. Its culture and toxic work environment made growth impossible. - Vox
The boutique fitness phenomenon sold exclusivity with a smile, until a toxic atmosphere and a push for growth brought the whole thing down.