Josh Owens laying it in (AP Paul Sakuma)
Stanford hosted Washington State Thursday night to begin the second half of Pac-10 play. Coach Johnny Dawkins Cardinal picked up the win with some excellent shooting over one of the best defensive teams in the nation, 65-54.
The first half was just about as even as you can get. Stanford was up 29-28.
That score is deceptive.
Coach Tony Bennett's Cougs played as though they wanted the win more than Stanford.
Stanford's Lawrence Hill started the scoring after both teams exchanged missed shots. Hill would go on to make his first five shots from the field.
After a nice layup by freshman DeAngelo Casto, who got the start, WSU tied the game. They took the lead for the next 15 minutes of play on another basket by Casto in the paint.
The Cougs defense was giving Stanford fits with tenacious pressure. WSU forced turnovers and wasn't giving up offensive rebounds.
Cardinal sharp-shooter Will Paul stroked a 3-point shot with about 90 seconds left in the first half. Paul's effort not only ignited the play of his team, it stirred the crowd out of their mesmerized state. Tough Bennett Ball will do that to crowds on the road. Slow pace coupled with forcing their opponents into tough shots isn't exciting stuff.
A slam dunk by Josh Owens put Stanford up by three, 29-26. More than that, now the crowd was roaring with approval to urge their team on toward victory.
Washington State would never regain their composure.
Time and time again in the second half, Coach Dawkins team would work the ball until WSU would sag into the middle. Once they had the Cougs overplaying the ball inside, a snap pass out to the open man resulted in great looks at the basket.
Stanford shooters took advantage of those open opportunities. They shredded WSU for 9-12 from behind the arc.
Once WSU fell behind about midway through the second half on a smooth jumper by Hill to put Stanford up 43-50, Coach Bennett's team just didn't have the fire power to catch up.
That has been the story all season against quality opponents and Pac-10 competition. Washington State struggles to put points up on the scoreboard.
Freshman Klay Thompson turned in another nice game despite being dogged everywhere on the court. Klay led the Cougs with 18 points on 7-14 shooting.
Senior Aron Baynes just missed another double-double scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The big Aussie was man-handled much of the game though he only made it to the foul line five times, making six of 10 free throws.
Coach Bennett's other senior starter, Taylor Rochestie had an off night. He picked up an early third foul that kept him from playing aggressive, hard-nosed basketball. Rochestie could only manage seven points before fouling out with about a minute left to play.
The game was what you should expect. Win on your home court and try to play at least .500 on the road.
Washington State will look to avenge their loss at home to California Saturday night and salvage a split of the northern California games.
They have the talent to make shots.
No reason why they shouldn't when they play in Berkeley.