With the loss, the Cougars fall to 16-8 overall and 6-6 in Pac-10 play, while Stanford climbs to 13-10 overall and into a fourth-place tie with the Cougs and Cal at 6-6 in conference action. WSU is now 3 1/2 games behind league leader Arizona and 1 1/2 games behind third-place Washington.
In the second half Thursday, it looked like destiny might be on the crimson side, however, as the Cougars stormed to within one, at 56-55, on two Brock Motum free throws with 8:33 left.
The 6,517 faithful on hand must have had visions of the Jan. 15 game between these two teams dancing in their heads. In that one at Palo Alto, the Cougs overcame an anemic first half to defeat the Cardinal 61-58.
Not so on this Palouse night.
"I don't know," said a visibly disgusted Klay Thompson, when asked to explain the pratfall out of the gate. "It's frustrating. We just didn't come out with as much energy as we needed and there wasn't a big crowd so we had to generate that ourselves, especially when there's and NCAA tournament bid on the line, this is just inexcusable."
Thompson didn't come close to his season average for points, but he wasn't a culprit in the setback. He had 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting from the field, and also collected 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists.
Capers, who had 6 points and no rebounds, was just as steamed as his teammate and was straight and to the point.
"You can't play college at this level and come out dead and expect to beat anybody," he said.
"I feel like we overlooked our opponent. I didn't expect them to hit their first seven threes, and I don't think they expected to hit their first seven threes. But even with them shooting so well we still have to play with energy .... we looked dead."
Head coach Ken Bone was less emotional about the loss than his players.
"Our defense wasn't very good, and their offense was extremely good," he said. "When a team comes out and shoots 7-8 from three point line, that can be deflating."
In there last three games, the Cougars have had inexplicable lapses including Stanford Last night, and Oregon eight days ago. The theme in both losses has been lack of urgency, something Bone doesn't understand why.
"That's a concern of mine," Bone said. "We played like there wasn't a sense of urgency which is just a shock. We're trying to get to the NCAA tournament and finish the season off. To come out flat two out of the three games, it's disappointing."
Bone went on to say that it's not necessarily a must-win here on out for the Cougars, but Thompson understands the Cougs definitely took a big step back in their dreams of dancing come March.
"We backed ourselves into a corner now," Thompson said. "It's almost a must win every game now because we came out lacking energy and focus."
The Cougars must now regain their focus and prepare for Cal, who is coming off an embarrassing 109-72 loss to the Huskies in Seattle.
"We know what we can do," Capers said. "What the media says about us or what the fans see, they're not in the locker room. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and we didn't meet that standard at all tonight. That's just something we're probably going to have to lose a couple of hours of sleep on."
"It's a feeling of disappointment," Thompson said. "We just let a lot of people down."