Cougs give one away, season outlook darkens

WASHINGTON STATE, inept offensively for much of the afternoon but still seemingly in control late in the game, gave one away in Pullman on Saturday. With a series of fouls that allowed USC to rack up points without losing time on the clock, the Cougars went down 46-44. In the process, they may have dug themselves a hole too deep to climb out from.

This was a battle of the "tweeners." It was two teams fighting for the middle of the Pac-10 standings. By not only losing, but doing so on their homecourt, the Cougars have put their post-season hopes on life support.

WSU is now 3-4 in Pac-10 play, with all four losses coming at home. The Cougas are 11-8 overall, while USC is 13-6 and 4-3.

When Klay Thompson canned a three-pointer at the 6:02 mark of the second half to put the Cougars' lead back to eight, at 38-30, the mood around Friel Court was buoyant.

And then things fell apart. Three minutes later the score was tied at 38, with four of those Trojan USC points coming via the charity stripe.

Thompson, who led WSU with 15 points on the day, came to the rescue again, hitting another trey to put the Cougs back up, 41-38. When Caleb Forrest subsequently blocked a shot, the momentum looked solidly colored crimson.

A flurry of fouls, turnovers and the ever-present lousy shooting ensued and the Cougs were doomed.

WSU shot a woeful 27.5 percent from the field, with Forrest -- so hot the other night against UCLA -- leading the miss parade with 1-for-11 accuracy.

"Caleb, the ones he was throwing in Thursday, weren't going in today when you look at his stats," said head coach Tony Bennett. "Some looks were there. I really challenged our guys before the game, I said ‘this is a game you can really make a statement.' It was an important game, us being 3-3, them being 3-3, having a home game. I really challenged them. And they certainly fought, but just didn't have enough to finish it out ... It's frustrating when you go 14-for-51. You're not going to win many games."

Bennett added, "This was an important game, but we'll battle back and see where we're at. I just keep telling them, ‘you've got to be the best team you can be.' We don't know what that is yet, but whatever it is, that's what we have to strive to be."

Besides the poor shooting numbers, there was another ominous stat for the Cougs: a whopping 21 personal fouls to USC's 10.

CF.C will be back later tonight with a video report and highlights from CougfanTV's Keith Chaplin.

NOTABLE NOTES:

* Aron Baynes came one rebound shy of his fourth-consecutive double-double (12 points, nine rebounds).

* Taylor Rochestie did not score in the first half for the second time this season…the other time being against Mississippi State in Newark, N.J. Nov. 28.

* WSU's 44 points are the second-fewest points scored all season, behind 43 against Pittsburgh, Nov. 29.

* The Cougars were perfect from the free throw line for the second game this season (10-for-10)…also a Pac-10 record 26-for-26 from the line at Oregon (Jan. 17)…made 49 of last 50 free throws attempted.

* Daven Harmeling's 3-pointer was his first field goal at Friel Court since WSU hosted Gonzaga on Dec. 10.

* The 90 combined points is the lowest point total between the Cougars and Trojans in the all-time series…the previous low was 100 points (43-57), Jan. 3, 1981 at USC.


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