This one will sting for a long time

PULLMAN – Leave it to Marcus Capers, who does a little bit of everything for the Cougars, to sum up an exciting but ultimately maddening game so succinctly. "It's a tough pill to swallow …" he said Saturday night after the Cougars' 65-63 home-court loss to No. 25 Arizona. This one figures to sting for a long time.

Courtesy of the plethora of missed free throws, the outside shots that didn't fall and a veritable debacle under the boards, this one has the makings to keep a partisan up all night replaying the missed opportunities.

But those aren't the only reasons why 8,850 crimson faithful filed out of Beasley with a collective glaze in the eyes. A variety of subplots make this loss feel like a swarm of yellow jackets just crashed the Fourth of July picnic.

Indeed, this one stings because it was the rare chance to get a win over a Pac-10 team that has an RPI rating worth a hill of beans. Come Selection Sunday, that lost chance could loom large.

This one stings because the Cougars had an eight-point lead in the second half and a vocal crowd behind them. That's precious stuff that can't be squandered.

This one stings because fourth place in the Pac-10 with a 4-4 record and the Huskies next on the schedule is light years away from 5-3 and alone in third place.


CAPERS V. PERRY

At night's end, though, the most inexplicable issue was the Cougars' meltdown at the charity stripe. WSU came into the game leading the Pac-10 free-throw shooting. The Cougs shot a woeful 9-of-17 from the line and missed some key attempts late that the Wildcats took advantage of.

Perhaps the biggest pair of misses came from the usually sure hand of Klay Thompson. The Cougars went on a 10-1 run in the second half to go up 45-37 – a development that led to Arizona coach Sean Miller drawing a technical foul. Thompson went to the line and missed both attempts. The first one clanked off the back iron, and the second rimmed out. Cougar head man Ken Bone noted after the game that it's a lot different emotionally for a player shooting free throws with people around, to having thousands of people focus on you for the technical attempts.

"It's a different feel and sometime that can affect guys," Bone said. "All the focus is on them, all the eyes on the arena is on them and sometimes that can add some pressure."

"I thought our guys just hung in and battled all game," Bone said. "We didn't make free throws which we normally do, and we didn't hit threes we usually do."

On top of the struggles from the free throw line, the Cougars were atrocious from the three-point arc, shooting a season-low 20 percent on 4-of-20 accuracy. Thompson, who shot 4-of-16 from the floor, was just 1-of-7 from downtown, and fellow junior sharpshooterFaisal Aden was nearly as bad, going 1-of-6.

Arizona, on the other hand, hit a breathtaking 11 of 18 from three-point land (61 percent).

"We had some pretty good looks I thought and as good as Arizona's defense is I thought we would have hit some of those shots but they didn't fall tonight," Bone said.

Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, the story line for the Cougars was their inability to counter the physical Wildcats down low. Led by star Derrick Williams' 19 rebounds, Arizona out boarded the Cougars 40-30, including 15 on the offensive glass.

"They're bigger and stronger so it's hard to keep them off the glass," Bone said. They never stopped playing physical and that's a credit to them."

Bone and Capers praised the play of starting Cougar center DeAngelo Casto, who limited Williams to 4-of-13 shooting from the floor. Capers dubbed Casto is not only one of the best centers in the conference, but in all of college basketball.

"It's a brotherhood here and if anyone think they're coming in here and scoring easy baskets on DeAngelo Casto they're in for a rude awakening," Capers said. "He's one of the best centers in the country, offensively and defensively. I said it."

Casto acknowledged the physical play of Arizona, and said there was plenty of bodies flying down low which was frustrating at times.

"At one point what am I supposed to do," Casto said. "I'm down there battling as hard as I can and so are my teammates. We got moved out of the way on some possessions or he fought harder and pushed or whatever it was and I guess at that point you have to do the same thing back but you have to be smart."

Even with the Cougars' horrendous showing shooting and tough time on the boards, they had an opportunity late to tie the game and send it into overtime. However, Thompson's short jumper in the key at the end of regulation wasn't close. He held his arms over his head in disbelief as the Wildcats celebrated. Thompson had one of his worst performances on the season, scoring just 9 points, however Casto said the ball had to be in his hands.

"You always want the ball in your best playmaker," Casto said. "You have the confidence in the beginning of the game, you have the confidence during the game why not have the confidence at the end of the game.

"Now it's tough because we put him in that situation and we shouldn't have been down by two points with how much time there was left," Casto said. Klay did Klay and I think he took a good shot and he just missed."

Next up for the Cougars will be a meeting with first place Washington in Pullman on Saturday.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • With his first basket of the game at the 15:50 mark, Thompson moved into sole possession of fifth place on WSU's all-time career scoring list. He now has 1,458 career points.

  • Casto led the Cougars in scoring for the second game in a row and just the third this season with 17 points. He was 8-for-12 from the field. He also had a team-high four blocked shots.

  • For the first time this season Thompson did not score in double-figures. That marks his first single-digit performance since scoring five against Washington last February.
  • For the second-straight game, Thompson had at least eight rebounds and seven assists. He has had a combined 16 assists and 16 rebounds in the last two games.

  • WSU's 63 points are tied for its second-fewest points in a game this season…season low is 56 points at USC (Dec. 31).

  • Capers finished with 11 points and has scored in double-figures in four of the last six games.

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