Good morning, and Happy Cougar Basketball Sunday Wonday! Is that a thing? It’s not? Whatever, I’m pressing forward.
Before we go any further, if somebody isn’t taking steps to monetize “Wheat Field Underdogs”, what are we even doing here? Hats and shirts with that phrase should be all over the shelves at the Bookie, Crimson and Gray, and on Homefield’s website by the end of the week.
— WSU Men's Basketball (@WSUCougarMBB) February 26, 2023
Thanks for stopping by to congratulate the team after the Bay sweep @KlayThompson !#GoCougs #WAZZU pic.twitter.com/E5HinxlMTn
For the first time since December 7, 2022, your Washington State Cougars men’s basketball team wakes up this Sunday morning having won as many games as it’s lost, and sits amid a five-game heater. As with a handful of wins this season, the Cougs didn’t exactly conduct a beauty pageant on Saturday afternoon, but they did just enough to leave NoCal with a second consecutive road sweep of the Bay Area schools.
It was the Mo and Bamba show once again in the scoring column, as those two combined to score 39 of WSU’s 63 points. Gueye was once again the key, as he collected 10 rebounds to go along with his 20 points. I’m not sure which language the Senegal native’s relatives speak back home (the interwebs indicates it is likely from the Atlantic dialect of African languages), but I’m pretty sure “Gueye” translates to “double double.” He also went 9/9 from the foul line, which was not insignificant in a tight game!
Bamba chipped in with the other 19, the biggest three of which came with 7:14 to go in the game, shortly after Cal had closed the deficit to two points after a vintage #Pac12refs moment. More on that later. T.J.’s triple from the top of the arc gave WSU some critical breathing room, and WSU slowly pulled away, maintaining at least a two-score lead the rest of the way.
Outside of those two, the shooting was...not great. The team shot just 33% from the field (18/54), but if you take away T.J. and Mo, the other seven Cougs made just 7/30, a paltry 23%. Yeesh. DJ Rodman’s scoring has fallen off somewhat of late, but he was critical on the glass, collecting 10 rebounds in 30 minutes.
Off the topic of WSU for a second - what on earth happened to Cal Basketball? This is a school that produced the likes of Jason Kidd, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Lamond Murray, and Randy Duck. Now it’s buried at the bottom of the conference, so far back that it can barely see Oregon State. Oregon State! The Cougs have beaten Cal seven straight times!
Ok, we’re back. Saturday’s win in Berkeley was rather critical for WSU’s postseason hopes. A loss would have forced WSU to win at Washington, followed by two victories in Vegas in order to maintain a .500 record. Now, if WSU can scratch out a win in Seattle, it’s set up pretty well to at least compete for a second straight NIT berth.
Other random thoughts from WSU’s win:
- I watch about one game per season that takes place at Haas Pavilion, and every time I’m reminded that the main camera is sitting on the Death Star.
- How ‘bout that nifty move and baby hook from Yukon Jack Wilson! My man showed some deft footwork there.
- The refs had another fine day, calling some absurdly ticky-tack fouls on WSU in the first half, to the point that Cal was in the bonus with 8:33 remaining. Rodman was whistled for three fouls on the afternoon, and probably didn’t commit any.
- But it wasn’t just the foul disparity. Bamba drove to the basket and scored in an obvious continuation situation. Well, obvious to everyone but the official, that is.
- Among life’s great mysteries: Who shot JFK? Did aliens build Stonehenge? Why does Kyle Smith insist on switching to zone? Cal’s first four possessions with WSU in a zone resulted in nine Bears points. WHAT ARE WE DOING?!
- Speaking of Yukon Jack, he picks up at least one foul per game where his only offense is being way bigger than everyone else. On Saturday, Obinna Anyanwu drove to the basket, Wilson stood his ground near the baseline, and Anyanwu bounced off him. Foul on Wilson. Ridiculous.
- I know Dylan Darling is a freshman, but my word, he shouldn’t be so obviously terrified to shoot the ball. Two wide open looks as the shot clock was about to expire, and he passed the ball away both times.
- Lately when I’ve been watching a game, I’ve thought, “That stupid call the refs kept making early in the season, where a player would get a tech for trying to draw a charge, seems to not get called anymore. Thank God.” ENTER PAC-12 REFS. Not only did Cal’s Grant Newell fully extend his arm to push Bamba away before he made a shot, THE IDIOT OFFICIAL REWARDED HIS PUSHOFF WITH A FLOPPING CALL ON BAMBA. I just can’t even with that rule and these refs.
- Shortly after Bamba’s triple that put WSU up 49-44, Newell though he had a dunk to get Cal back within a score. Andrej Jakimovski thought otherwise, with an outstanding block. According to the WSU game notes, Jaki’s one block matches a career high. God bless the treasure that is game notes.
- The Cougs didn’t get a lot of love from their conference mates, either. Both Arizona and Oregon State could have really helped WSU’s positioning, but both lost in the final seconds, Arizona in rather brutal fashion.
So awesome to see Coug hoops greats Ike Fontaine and Klay Thompson at the game. WSU kinda could used their shooting on Saturday! Regardless of it got there, WSU has won five in a row, and if Bamba and Mo can keep this up, more wins are likely in the offing.
In nearly every circumstance throughout its history, coming away with a road split in Los Angeles is a heck of a good weekend for the Cougars. But man, given how Saturday played out, there’s a definite tinge of disappointment in the 1-1 result. Difficult to call WSU’s loss at USC anything other than a blown opportunity.
After a blistering second quarter from the field (WSU shot 80%), the Cougs took a 16-point lead into halftime. After three quarters, WSU still led by 12. But the Cougs couldn’t keep the lead, scoring a paltry nine points in the fourth while allowing 21. You just can’t close like that and expect to win. Add to that the fact that WSU turned the ball over nearly as many times (23) as it made field goals (25), and it’s plain to see that the Cougs let a golden chance slip away.
On the bright side, that win at UCLA puts WSU on even more solid NCAA Tournament footing, as ESPN has it all the way up at a #8 seed in the latest projection.
Side note: Please no. Put WSU on the 11 line or something, not 8/9. Enough of that.
The Cougs have a decent chance to move up a line or two if they can make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament. First up is 10-seed Cal, whom WSU faced once this season, in Pullman. WSU came away with a 10-point win. If WSU wins that, #2 Utah is up next. That would take a much better effort, as the Utes beat WSU twice this season, by an average of nearly 20 points per game.
After suffering its first loss of the season on Friday, to the vaunted UC Irvine Anteaters, WSU got back in the win column with a resounding 14-1 pounding of San Diego State. Next up is a Sunday tilt with the UC San Diego Tritons. What is a Triton, you ask? Well, maybe you didn’t, but I did. Preliminary research indicates that Triton was a demigod of the sea and son of Poseidon, with the upper body of a man and lower body of a fish. Here’s one rendering:
So pretty much the Little Mermaid’s ideal “swipe right” on Tinder.
UCSD is 2-4 on the season, with its wins coming over Michigan and UNLV. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. PST, and you can watch on ESPN+.
This Week in Parenting
I don’t know about the others among you with kids, but mine seem to make the simplest of tasks exceedingly difficult. For example, the teenager carries a backpack that is constantly on the brink of disintegration, due to all the crap he crams into it. I finally decided to look inside, against my better judgement, and saw three blue binders, containing next to nothing. The following exchange ensued:
“Why are all these binders in your backpack?”
“In case the teachers do a binder check.”
“But there’s nothing in them. What would the teacher check?”
“I don’t know but they always tell us that they might check the binders.”
“Again, you don’t have anything in the binder for the teacher to look at, so what is the point of keeping them in your backpack?”
“I just have them there in case.”
I don’t even know what to think of that conversation. Anyway, I told him to remove the binders since they serve no purpose other than to take up space and add weight. That was a week ago. The binders are still in there.
Later in the week, it was time for a Junior ROTC road trip to a drill meet in Melbourne, FL, roughly eight hours away. They were taking a bus, so I asked what time he needed to be at school. “I need you to drop me off at 0445 Friday morning.” Not the news I was hoping to hear! So off they went, getting stuck in traffic, sleeping four to a room (one of whom opted for the bathtub because...reasons?), rising early for the drill meet, then piling back onto the bus for the drive home. So after dropping him at 0445 Friday - with enough mom-supplied snacks to feed the people who suffered through the Bataan Death March - I was back in the parking lot at 0130 Saturday night/Sunday morning to get him. Not ideal! He was kind enough to snag me some Buc-ee’s Beaver Bites when they made a rest stop, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
The fifth-grader had a science project due this week, which he turned in on Friday. The kids were given a choice of either proposing a research question or conducting an experiment. He opted for the research question, which was, “How did tectonic plates move and form?” I suggested that he change it to “form and move” since something can’t move until it forms, but that advice fell on deaf ears.
On the way to grab dinner Friday evening, I asked about the other projects, and he said that the experiments were largely of the “Diet Coke + Mentos” variety. I then asked if anyone else opted for the research question, and he said he was the only one. It didn’t take a genius to infer that he chose a research question because he thought that would make for an easier path toward the finish line. So I asked why he didn’t do an experiment, like his classmates had. “I don’t need to do any experiments because I’ve already learned everything, dad.”
Well then. His decided lack of, um, vigor for the assignment led to an ultimatum. Anything worse than a “B” and the XBox sanctions kick in. We shall see.
Tales From What Used To Be the Road
Back in May, I had to drop off my car in Germany for shipping back to the U.S. Part of that process is canceling the German registration on base, where they give you a temporary plate so you can get your car from the Port back to your state of residence. The guy behind the counter said, “this will get you to your home, but it’s just a temporary plate and you need to register your car as soon as you can.” My car showed up at the port in early August, and I put the “temp”plate on for the drive home. Once back in Florida, I may or may not have completely disregarded the German Customs agent’s advice and just kept the transitory plate affixed. That all came to an end on President’s Day when I was taking the kid to drill practice. Apparently the local police just have to clamp down on possible speeders during the morning hours on a holiday, because the short drive featured multiple speed traps.
I wasn’t speeding (saw him sitting there from a distance and pegged the speedometer at the allowed 45 mph), but the policeman pulled out of his hiding spot behind me anyway, and followed. Soon enough the lights came on and we got pulled over. Always fun when your kid is with you! I asked if I was speeding. “No, I’ve never seen that plate before. Where is it from” I explained the deal, and put the correct plate on when he asked me to, since it was sitting in the back. With that, another of the final vestiges of my time in Europe went away.
RIP, oddball license plate. It was a hell of a run.
Dedicating all of this section to the Ukraine war. It’s been a little more than a year now since the Joseph Jugashvili (Stalin) wannabe and little, little man Vladimir Putin chose barbarism over decency. Unfortunately for Putin, his military’s institutional rot, which he oversaw, was exposed for all the world to see. Fortunately for most Americans (Conservative Putin sycophantic stooges excepted), Ukraine’s brave people have fought back, while Western nations continue to help them. God bless those poor people and the horrors they have endured. Слава Україні! Sláva Ukrayíni!
The first selection is a podcast that contains first-hand Ukrainian accounts, the last of which is absolutely gutting.
Whatever it takes, Putin must lose
The Russian leader has badly underestimated the determination of Ukraine and its Western allies.
‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine - POLITICO
A first-ever oral history of how top U.S. and Western officials saw the warning signs of a European land war, their frantic attempts to stop it — and the moment Putin actually crossed the border.
Leaders, in their own words, recall first hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - Washington Post
Political, military and intelligence officials describe their reaction to the Russian invasion and what they did that first day.
Unsolicited Podcast Recommendation
One more on this topic. If you would like to follow the war on a more granular level, both in Ukraine and through an international lens, listen to Ukraine: The Latest. It is sensational. The folks at The Telegraph are doing the Lord’s work.