Comeback win another step for Bone's Cougs

IT DOESN'T MATTER WHETHER it's a young team or a group of grizzled veterans, a strong comeback win is a prerequisite for a successful season. And for an uber-young team like the Cougs who have postseason aspirations, despite one senior and no juniors, it was a must. Trailing by as many as 15, the youthful Cougars turned the tide at USC, storming back to win going away 67-60 in Los Angeles.

Most games, when down by 15 in the second half, are not going to have happy endings. It takes too much to put together the comeback bid, and it can't be sustained -- eventually the other team is going to put together a run of their own and then you're right back where you started.

But Washington State has defied convention all season. They're now 14-5 on the year, and 1/2 game out of the Pac-10 lead, when many thought a .500 season with such a young squad would be one heck of an accomplishment. But youth was most certainly on display in the first half against 'SC.

IT WASN'T THE defense in the first half that was hurting the Cougs most, although there were certainly lapses on that end of the floor. No, it was the offense turning the ball over that was leading to intense malaise.

It led to USC fast breaks and slam dunks. As poor a first half as the Cougs played, take away just a few of the offensive turnovers and it's probably a 3-4 point game at the half.

Instead, it was a 10-point deficit. And it was soon a 15-point hole the Cougs were staring at a few minutes into the second half.

A lack of size and strength on the inside continues to be an issue for Washington State, and USC was owning the boards for the first 25 minutes plus. But when the Cougars started to turn that around, that's when the game turned.

THERE WERE OTHERS who had more points, but it's hard to overstate the importance senior Nikola Koprivica had in the Cougar win.

Koprivica was labeled as a guy who could shoot the three when he arrived in Pullman. But he had gone just 26-for-110 on his career from behind the arc entering the season.

As a super sub coming off the bench this year, and playing starter's minutes, Koprivica has been deadly from downtown.

He came into the game leading the Pac-10 with a 52.2 percent field goal percentage from 3-point land. Koprivica went 3-for-3 from long range against USC.

And each one was a dagger in the heart of Troy.

IT WOULD BE, however, remiss not to mention Reggie Moore and Klay Thompson in the win. Once a team comes all the way back from way down like the Cougs did at USC, the lead then usually swings back and forth. Not this time. WSU took the lead and kept on blowing right past USC. Moore and Thompson were big reasons why.

All Thompson did was to score 20 points against a Trojan defense geared specifically to stop him.

Earlier in the season, such an effort might have resulted in a lesser point total for the second year sophomore. But Thompson scored 11 of the first 14 WSU points, and his catch and shoot hoop -- on an assist from Koprivica -- with just over a minute to go, to make it 64-58, put the game on ice.

Leading the Cougs in assists was Moore. Oh, and he also poured in a game-high 21 points on the night.

Breaking ankles with his crossover, Time after time in the second half, Moore drove the lane down the stretch and found the bucket, the open man or the foul line.

Count USC coach Kevin O'Neill a believer.

"He lit us up. He tore us apart. I haven't seen a better point guard in the Pac-10," said O'Neill of the Cougar freshman.

It makes you wonder what might be in store at UCLA on Saturday. The Bruins are coming off a thrilling win of their own, a buzzer beater that took a win out of the Huskies' pocket. Will it be Moore, Thompson and Koprivica who lead the charge again -- or will someone else in the crimson fold play a central role?

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