HOOPS: Cougs' closing run falls short

IT SEEMED TO come from out of nowhere. Washington State sprang to life late against USC, furiously tearing away at a 13-point deficit and trimming the lead to just a deuce -- and with a chance to tie or take the lead. But as good a closing stretch as it was for the Cougars, it wasn't enough to overcome what preceded it in the 60-56 loss.

Sometimes you have an off night shooting the ball. And the Cougs, save for DeAngelo Casto, couldn't buy a bucket for most of the game.

WSU's two primary scoring threats, Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden, went a combined 8-for-30. And although Thompson heated up late, finishing with 17 points, WSU just didn't have enough firepower at the end of a draining two-week road trip.

Casto picked up the slack in the first half, scoring 12 points to keep WSU within range at 26-22 at the break. He finished with a game high 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

USC smothered Thompson early, and in an effort to counter he looked to be rushing his shot. When that didn't work, Thompson drove to the hoop but couldn't get the calls or find the bottom of the net. Aden had his own travails, finishing with four points in 25 minutes. Reggie Moore was just as cold, shooting 2-for-11 on the night.

But WSU's defense kept them in it and when USC seemed to have the game in hand, it helped bring WSU almost all the way back.

The Cougs played defense but their one shortcoming was not getting enough pressure on USC's three-point shooters. USC missed enough open looks to aid WSU's cause, but the seven treys they connected on was the difference in the game.

Washington State trailed 58-45 when they began their run with 3:26 left on the clock. And when Thompson and Abe Lodwick connected on successive three-pointers, it was 58-56 with still over a minute left. Plenty of time.

But Lodwick misjudged a Thompson pass with 12 seconds left and USC hit two free throws to end the comeback bid.

WSU finished the afternoon shooting just 36.7 percent from the floor.

With the loss, WSU completed one of the longest road trips in recent memory. Two weeks is a long time and the Cougs looked out of sync and tired from the start of the game in the Galen Center. An 0-2 start to Pac-10 play certainly isn't what the Cougars envisioned, but it also isn't the end of the world in what's generally considered to be a down year in the Pac-10 conference.

Wazzu looks to get back on the winning side of things against Oregon State on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.

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