Washington State was looking to find some offense Thursday night in their Pac-10 game with Cal. The weather in Pullman was a little warmer than it's been lately. That can't be said about Coach Tony Bennett's shooters.
It was a night where you'd think WSU had the right combination dialed up for victory.
Cal has one of the top Pac-10 scorers in lightning-quick guard Jerome Randle. He came into this game averaging nearly 20 points a game for coach Mike Montgomery's Bears. Yes folks, Randle can fill it up.
Newsflash: Randle held to just eight points, missing all five of his three-point attempts.
Newsflash: Patrick Christopher goes off for 22 on 9-14 shooting against the Cougs. He was a sharp 4-6 from behind the arc.
Games are won and lost by team effort. Credit Christopher for picking up the scoring slack for Randle and the Bears.
Once again, Coach Bennett's team went through several scoring droughts in the second half. Both teams were guilty of going on runs, then letting the other back in it.
The final run belonged to Cal, making shots down the stretch to ice the victory and move to a perfect 3-0 in conference play.
Freshman Klay Thompson played well in the first half, scoring 12 on 5-9 shooting. Klay made both trey attempts. But Thompson was all the Cougs had going on the offensive end of the court for the first 20 minutes.
Aron Baynes was taken out of his comfort zone in the opening stanza, making just one of six shots. That won't get it done if no other Cougar is scoring. Baynes was the second leading scorer for WSU in the first half with just five points. Five points for the big man from down under?
Senior Taylor Rochestie picked things up for the Cougs in the second half. He was red-hot for about five minutes, leading a run that brought WSU back from the brink. The 15 points he poured in over the final 20 minutes weren't enough. Taylor and Thompson were the only two Cougars to reach double figures on the night.
Credit Coach Montgomery's Bears' "D" for keeping pressure on WSU and holding them to just 38 percent shooting on the night. That's the sort of stat Coach Bennett expects to see resulting from his defense.
Cal made the most of their shot attempts, converting a solid 50 percent from the floor.
Washington State falls to 0-2 in Pac-10 play. Worse yet, they have lost six of their last nine. Their three wins during that span were over Idaho State, Montana State, and Idaho.
The last five weeks have featured some hard lessons for this very young Washington State club.
The Cougs have learned how to play defense.
With a couple of days to prepare for a visit from the Stanford Cardinal, can Coach Bennett's team learn how to score?
There's little doubt that will be the focus of practice. The kids have to trust their talent and believe they belong on the hardwood floors of the Pac-10.