Storylines galore in OT heartbreaker

PULLMAN - Heartbreak struck, plain and simple for Wazzu on Saturday. Up as many as 15 points in the first half against UCLA, if appeared the Cougars were on their way to an unthinkable victory with stars Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore on the bench. But UCLA battled back and dealt WSU a crushing defeat, in the process spoiling senior night for walk-on Ben Loewen, who still had a night to remember.

"A tough loss to swallow" doesn't begin to describe the Cougars 58-54 defeat in overtime to UCLA on Saturday. With Reggie Moore (ankle) and Klay Thompson (suspension) unavailable, no one really gave the Cougars a chance of defeating the second-place Bruins.

"You've got to be super impressed with Washington State," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I think you have to give them all the credit in the world for the way they came out and completely dominated the first half with all the adversity."

"I'm proud of them," Ken Bone added. "We did a lot of good things tonight but unfortunately we didn't execute things at the end when we needed to."

The Cougars are now 19-11 overall and 9-9 in conference play as they head to a Thursday date with Washington in the Pac-10 Tourney.

With 15 ticks left on the clock Saturday, the Cougars found themselves up 48-46 after Faisal Aden connected on 1-of-2 free throws. But with ice in his veins, UCLA's Malcolm Lee knocked down a pair of free throws to send the game into OT after a drive to the hoop drew the foul.

In the extra frame, Lee knocked down another set of free throws pushing the Bruins' lead to four and finishing off the Cougars, who now will face Washington in the Pac-10 Tourney.

It was clear the loss of Moore and Thompson to the starting line-up killed the Cougars in the second half, but there were plenty of players who picked it up in their absence and turned Beasley Coliseum into a rockin' and roiling David vs. Goliath battle for the ages witnessed by 9,317 vocal souls.


Brock Motum led the charge with 15 points and 4 rebounds in 28 minutes and played one of his finest game of the season and for a while, he destroyed UCLA on cuts to the basket. Aden scored 14 points, grabed 5 rebounds, dished 2 assists and had 1 steal. The story of the afternoon, though, senior walk-on Ben Loewen, who played a jacked-up, career-high 21 minutes.

For the former Mead High standout, his last game in Pullman produced more court time than he's seen all year. And Loewen did exactly what Bone and the Cougars needed him to do in that time -- play stifling defense on UCLA's Lazeric Jones. The UCLA guard was 1-of-9 from the floor.

In the Cougars 2-3 zone set, Loewen played like a madman. He was flying to the ball, playing physical, hard nosed defense that set the tempo for the entire Cougar D.

"I'm real pleased with the fact that not only that he got the chance to play but I'm just happy at the fact that he held his own," Bone said. "It's not like in my mind I'm thinking, ‘Man, Ben Loewen really hurt us here or hurt us there,' -- He did a good job."

Loewen's stats won't jump out from the box score, with 3 personal fouls, 0-of-1 from the floor and providing only one assist, but the Spokane natives effort impressed Bone and likely everyone watching.

"He was composed, played with confidence and I'm really proud of him," Bone said.

Bone was jokingly asked why in the world Loewen has not played more for the Cougars during the season.

"Klay and Reggie are a little bit better than Ben," Bone said with a smile. "You know, Ben showed tonight really that maybe there were times earlier in the year that he should have played more."

For Loewen, the 21 minutes were the most he's played since high school. After graduating from Mead in 2007, Loewen attended Whitworth College before transferring to the Cougars for the 2008-2009 season. Loewen received a fantastic ovation from the fans when he was introduced as the starting point guard.

"Coach told me last night I'd be starting at the shootaround," Loewen said. "With Klay going down and Reggie going down, I expected to probably play some minutes. With it being senior night, it made it pretty exciting. I was pretty emotional at the beginning but once the ball was tipped I just settled down, and you have to forget everything and just play basketball."

That doesn't mean there weren't nerves.

"Yeah a little bit," Loewen said when asked if he had trouble sleeping Friday night. "I was a little bit nervous, I'm not going to lie."

As for the Cougars, they must now regain their focus and get ready for their Pac-10 tournament opener next Thursday, and likely a rematch with UW. Saturday's loss certainly will leave a sour taste in the player's mouths, but Motum said they must regain their focus because the season is not over.

"It was a tough loss," Motum said. "Tomorrow we have a day off and we'll think about it and reflect a little bit buy Monday we've got to get back to practice and it's onto the next game."

  • Suspended junior Klay Thompson took the microphone before tip-off Saturday and apologized to the fans. Thompson said he was sorry for letting Coug Nation down.

    "It's something that he wanted to do," Bone said. "I, and we as a team, are proud of the fact that he said what he said to the crowd. I think it came from the heart."

  • The Cougars were led in scoring by Motum's 15 points. Faisal Aden was second on the team with 14 points, but he shot 4-of-17 from the floor.

  • DeAngelo Casto was held to just nine points and was just 1-5 from the free throw line after Casto had gone 8-of-8 from the charity stripe against the UW on Sunday, and 4-of-6 against USC on Thursday.

  • UCLA's Reeves Nelson finished the game leading all scorers with 23 points off 10-of-13 shooting.

  • Bone said after the game that the status of Moore for Thursday's Pac-10 opener remains uncertain and that his sprained ankle will be re-evaluated Sunday. Thompson's status for the first game of the Pac-10 tournament on Thursday also has yet to be announced by Bone.

  • Freshman walk-on Will DiIorio scored the first Pac-10 points of his career…finished with two points, two rebounds and three assists.

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