The streak of seven consecutive wins by Washington State over the Washington Huskies was emphatically stopped in the Pac-10 opener for both schools. The final score Saturday afternoon in Pullman was 68-48 in front of a small crowd of just 8,107.
WSU students were on holiday break. Composure for the Cougs went on break for the final 10 minutes of the game, but let's not get ahead of things.
For the first 20 minutes, the game was typical between the two rivals.
Coach Tony Bennett's team got off to a nice start.
WSU held the lead or the game was tied for the first 12 minutes before Coach Lorenzo Romar's Huskies took their first lead at 13-12. The Cougs were playing classic Bennett Ball.
There were many things being done well by Washington State in the first half. All-American candidate Jon Brockman couldn't grab a single rebound and didn't score over the first 16 minutes of the game.
Where Washington excelled in the first half was making some critical three-point shots.
At intermission, the scoreboard reflected a great battle 30-28 in favor of the Dawgs.
When senior Taylor Rochestie converted a layup to begin the second, the crowd went wild. It appeared that fans were set for another 20 minutes of hard fought basketball.
Within the next couple of minutes, the Huskies went on a 9-0 run by controlling the tempo of the game. They had the Cougs on the run.
Over the following five minutes of play, Rochestie showed leadership on offense, but there wasn't an answer by the Cougar defense. The Huskies began to assert themselves by controlling the boards which led to setting the pace of play.
WSU was able to crawl back into the game midway through the second half, closing the score to 46-41 in favor of the men in purple. However, they would only score seven points the rest of the game.
The experience and strength of Coach Romar's front line was complimented by steady play outside. Husky guards, freshman Isaiah Thomas and senior Justin Dentmon, combined for 36 of the Huskies 68 points. The Cougars' back court of Rochestie and freshman Klay Thompson managed just 20 points between them.
After the game, Coach Bennett conceded that his team isn't built to come back from large deficits. Clearly that was the case at Friel Court Saturday afternoon.
When WSU fell behind in the second half, they didn't have any answers on the offensive end of the court. They showed their inexperience by turning the ball over and not getting back on defense, allowing the UW to make transition baskets.
Things got out of hand near the end of the game. Words and shoving between the two teams marred the finish. Then with just a few ticks remaining on the game clock, Coach Romar called time out. Keep in mind, his team had a 20-point lead. That move incensed the few remaining fans, Cougar players and coaching staff.
After the clock ran out to end the game, Coach Bennett asked Coach Romar what that was all about. Coach Romar was simply disappointed in what was going on between players from both squads and wanted his team to show some respect for their opponent and the game.
This loss should go a long way toward motivating Washington State. The staff and team will review the tape and have a blueprint on how to gain a conference win. Passing up open shots and lapses on defense just won't get it done. Not against the talent in the Pac-10.
WSU drops to 8-5 on the year. More importantly, they are 0-1 in the Pac-10.
Conference play isn't a sprint, which is a good thing for the Cougs. There is more than enough time left in this race to improve, gain some confidence and play a solid 40-minute game.