Thoughts from Staples

Well, for those of you that thought Washington was going to fold the tent when WSU went up big in the first half, I hope you learned your lesson. This Husky team showed some real cajones this evening.

It is not my intention to scold or say "I told you so". No. It is more to share my incredible feeling I have. I am sitting in "The Spot" bar finishing this article and I still can't believe what I just saw.

Washington State started Marcus Capers, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore, DeAngelo Casto, and Nate Lodwick. Washington countered with Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday, CJ Wilcox, and Terrence Ross.

Looking at those line ups, it was clear that the Huskies were making a statement. What was it? That they were going to need more offense, and they were going to play defense a bit differently this evening.

Look for that line up more often. For those of you that wondered why Ross wasn't playing earlier, that's not really fair. Ross admits that he was struggling on some things, but tonight he overshadowed that with a performance that was clutch.

Romar and Bone knew it was going to be a real battle. They exchanged warm hugs after the teams took the floor for the final pre-game warm ups, and after the line ups were announced, Romar pointed over at Bone, Bone pointed back, and both exchanged huge grins. "GAME ON" was the message.

Observations from the game

YES, Terrence Ross got the start over Scott Suggs and Aziz N'Daiye. I understand the concept. Washington's offense has been anemic so why not try the young sharp-shooter over a center who has very little in terms of a post game and is hitting about 2 out of every 5 free throws.

It worked at first.

Ross's early shooting was the majority of the Husky offense. His fearlessness and aggressive mindset was a Godsend. With the good you get the bad though, and on two Klay Thompson treys in a row, they came with very good looks because Ross failed to rotate over to him.

Still, Ross was a much needed offensive spark and worth the defensive liability. His approach to the offensive game is something that has been missing for a couple of weeks now.
The Pac-10's most improved player, Matthew Bryan-Amaning needed to show up early and often tonight. It was difficult to tell because he picked up a cheap two fouls, both against DeAngelo Casto. Both fouls were a result of Casto beating him to a spot on the floor.

That forced the Huskies to bench him with at the 16:43 mark.

From that point on, Klay Thompson just shredded the Husky defense. Washington stuck with a man-to –man defense but lack of on-ball defense and an inability to stop dribble penetration allowed the Cougars to push the deficit to 11.

Aziz N'Daiye, bless his heart, tries hard but let's face it. He is not yet a Pac-10 player and the Cougars abused him inside and out. It got so bad that Romar was forced to put MBA back in at the 9:00 mark. MBA replied with six straight points.
Washington's defense just isn't very good for big parts of games. Because of depth issues, they really could not press like they wanted to, but once the ball came up the floor, WSU could pretty much dictate whatever happened in their offense. CJ Wilcox, Isaiah Thomas, and Scott Suggs just cannot stop the penetration. And Washington's help defense inside comes at a cost – second chance points in the pain. Three trips late in the first half saw WSU score on put-backs. Washington had no such answer.

This is perhaps one of the worst on-ball defensive teams in Romar's tenure here. It's hard to understand but these guys are an open book for any guard that has decent handles. Klay Thompson and Faisel Aden are not noted ball handlers, but they continually put the Husky defense on its heels, and did it with ease.

That has to get fixed.
Isaiah Thomas has to improve at the foul line. He is just not a good foul shooter in games. It is inexplicable that a guy that goes to the foul line as much as he does could be so unreliable at the charity stripe. When a team gives you a free shot from 15-feet away, you have to make it.

It can't be just practice, because I know that Zeke works hard after practice taking foul shots. It is all mental for him. He needs a new routine, a new outlook, or maybe wear a rabbit's foot on his shoe lace. I dunno, but all I know is that someone that goes to the line as much as he should next year really needs to be able to convert four out of every five times. That would be a huge weapon.
Gary Payton has the biggest diamond studs in his ears I've ever seen. He was sitting two rows from the press area and you could see his ear-bling every time he turned his head. After the first half his advice was to somehow get some rebounding going for the Dawgs. Not bad advice. But that may require the Huskies to change their defense. When guard cut right through it the Husky forwards rotate in to help, leaving the basket unattended.

GP was enjoying the action and being very attentive to the kids that he had in his entourage. Neat to see.
The Terrence Ross era has begun. No matter how many lapses he has on defense, his athleticism is too much to ignore. He just brings too much to the equation. Tonight, Ross's attitude, fearlessness, and ability to score gave the Huskies their offensive swagger back. It also opened up more things for Isaiah Thomas, who took full advantage by piling up assist after assist. ELEVEN dimes is not a bad line.

Ross has the ability to create his shot, the ability to drain a long trey in the half-court, and he can attack the basket with his amazing vertical.

His defense will improve over time, and he will be an upgrade over Justin Holiday at the three as soon as next year.
Last observation of the evening: How did I know that the Huskies were gonna win tonight? Well, it was divine intervention. I had to go get rid of some coffee and bottled water, so I headed for the bathroom over by security deep in the lower bowels of the Staples Center at the media time out at the 4:00 mark left in the game. I sprinted over, the entire time looking for some sign that the Huskies would finish, and somehow keep Klay Thompson from stealing this one. I found my sign when I hit the one-stall restroom….the entire floor and lower half of the walls in that water closet were all one color: PURPLE.

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