WSU 78, UW 71 - Cougs out-effort Dawgs
"You've got to credit Washington State," said a quiet Romar in the aftermath of his Huskies second-straight PAC-10 defeat, 78-71 to the Cougars. "They gave more effort, and they hit their shots. We had some spurts, but in the context of 40 minutes, the Cougars outplayed us."
"They were mentally tougher tonight."
Again, it was the Huskies who started strong, bolting to a 13-2 lead early. The tide began to turn late in the first half, when WSU went on a ten-point run late, eventually cutting the lead to 33-31. And when the teams came out for the second half, a seemingly perpetual Husky malaise reared its ugly head again – an opponent came out of the locker room with more fire than them. The Cougars continued the second stanza where they left off, and found themselves up 39-33 before Romar called the first of his three second-half timeouts.
But the die had been cast.
"We just weren't running at their shooters, and so they got into a rhythm," Romar said. "And because of that I felt like we starting forcing a lot of shots."
"In the context of things, that's just a bad combination."
After the teams came out of the timeout, WSU's Robbie Cowgill made like Dikembe Mutumbo, blocking three straight Washington shots in one sequence. Jamaal Williams – who ended up catching some dog-house time after having his own three in a row blocked - was the recipient of a pair of them. Not only did it frustrate the senior, but his coach as well. Romar wouldn't come out and say anything against his senior, but it was obvious what his intent was, as Brandon Burmeister played significant second-half minutes. "I felt like we had to get guys out there to get after it," when asked about Jamaal's 11-minute spell on the bench. "I thought Brandon did a good job. He hit a couple of big shots. He was playing hard."
"I just felt like we needed to try another combination that would get us better effort. We needed guys out there that wanted to play hard, intense basketball."
But all the intensity points went to the Cougars. In a deafening din, they scored the game's final seven points after withstanding the Huskies' run of 10 straight to tie the game. After being outboarded by four in the first half, WSU doubled that back by grabbing eight more caroms in the second, winning the overall battle 32-28. They had eight blocked shots, led by Cowgill's five. Those blocks also drove UW to shoot it from outside, where they were only 9-for-22 from beyond, with Burmeister and Mike Jensen combining for 4-of-11. Ryan Appleby was long all evening in an o-fer from behind the stripe.
And speaking of threes, WSU's Josh Akognon nailed four of them in the second half - each more important than the last. "That's just what we wanted from him," Cougar coach Dick Bennett exclaimed. "He showed poise out there, with (Derrick Low) out. We've wanted him to set himself and fire, instead of shooting too quick. We wanted him to pull the trigger."
"We're really young," Bennett continued. "But tonight, poise was the theme. And I thought we played real solid and poised."
Brandon Roy hit eight-of-ten from the field, while scoring 27 in 26 minutes, foul trouble keeping him from doing more damage. Roy agreed with his coach, and feels like his team is worried more about their national image than they are winning basketball games.
"We've got to stop looking at our rankings," Roy said with a touch of animation, "and start to play against people. We'll be a less-than-.500 team unless we quit worrying about how we look and start playing harder."
"It's not that it's Washington State – it's another PAC-10 loss. We can't keep letting up against teams. We're not that good."
And while it seemed like the Cougars got more than their fair share of the calls – Roy's two blocking calls on possible charges a prime example, one of them drawing a technical from Romar – it's typical that the team playing harder does get the calls.
Perhaps not so coincidental with the "effort", the Huskies only had two players in double-figures - Roy and Justin Dentmon (27 and 12 respectively).
And while Romar refused to discuss the officiating, he acknowledges that other teams are preparing better for his club. And now the road beckons for a Husky team that has more questions than it did a month ago.
"Teams are scouting us better now," the disappointment evident in Romar's voice, "and it's simply up to us to deal with it."
Game Notes: It was the Cougars' first win at Hec Edmundson since 1994. And it was the first time Washington has lost back-to-back PAC-10 games at home since the L.A. schools swept them two years ago.
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