The Washington State Men's Basketball team returned to their home court Wednesday night. Playing a very competitive Idaho Vandal (5-3) squad in front of 7,285 fans, the Cougs (7-2) notched their seventh victory of the season by a final score of 76-64.
Speaking of seven, the win tonight marks the seventh consecutive win by WSU in the longest running series in the nation between two schools outside the Ivy League.
WSU's tandem of sophomores Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto led the way for the Cougars.
Thompson turned in another strong overall performance scoring 25 points, grabbing 9 boards and had a nice block midway through the second half. Klay has been consistent at both ends of the court to begin this season. He's scored 20+ points in 8 of 9 games. And once again, Thompson logged 35 minutes of playing time.
In what is quickly becoming habitual for Casto, he logged yet another double-double scoring 13 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Playing with his characteristic high energy, Casto was credited with 4 blocked shots while bothering at least a dozen other attempts by Vandal players:
“I’m really proud of DeAngelo (Casto). He came out tonight and got 14 rebounds against a team that’s athletic, strong and he showed what he’s capable of doing. Our team did a nice job (rebounding) and I think DeAngelo did an outstanding job.” - WSU Coach Ken Bone
Both teams play evenly for most of the first half. Idaho took an early 12-8 lead by matching the pressure and intensity of the Cougs. That margin proved to be the largest lead Idaho would have all night.
Under Coach Don Verlin , Idaho has improved dramatically. He has the Vandals playing aggressive defense and holding WSU to shooting just 43.3% from the field. They were able to occasionally disrupt Washington State's motion offense installed by Coach Ken Bone .
The first half ended with a 17-9 run by WSU to take a 36-28 lead into the locker room marking the first time Idaho trailed an opponent at the half this season.
Whatever Coach Bone said to his team at halftime should be bottled and used every game for the rest of the year. The Cougs roared out of the intermission with a 21-2 run that looked to dampen the spirits of the Vandal players. Well, Coach Verlin would have none of that. He expects his team to play hard for 40 minutes and emptied his bench in search of players that could and would.
WSU seemed to run out of gas just about the time the Idaho players got the message their coach was sending them. Led by Jeff Ledbetter bombing away from outside the NBA 3-point line, Idaho picked away at the massive 27-point lead built up by the Cougs.
Bucket by bucket and hustle-play after hustle-play, the Vandals made a game of it as the second half clock was winding down.
Ledbetter hit the final of his four 3-point shots with 1:05 left to close the score to 71-64 in favor of WSU. From about the 9-minute mark to Ledbetter's trey, the Cougs managed a measly 2 buckets from the field.
With the time clock ready to expire, the desperate Vandals were forced to foul on every inbounds pass by the Cougs. In crunch time, WSU players made their free throws with the game on the line.
In the previous two games, both WSU losses, the guys in crimson and gray unis were pressured into a ridiculous number of turnovers. Tonight Washington State protected the ball and committed just 10 turnovers:
"We had six in the first half and only four in the second half. We didn’t see the same type of pressure we saw at Kansas State. We faced a good team who’s quick and fairly aggressive. I thought the guys did a nice job taking care of the ball overall.” - WSU Coach Ken Bone
Washington State was able to run their motion offense to perfection early in the second half. Their run was triggered by some fine outside shooting from behind the 3-point arc by Abe Lodwick and Nikola Koprivica :
“We need that position to hit shots from the perimeter. It opens up everything else for our guards, our bigs and everybody. It’s great that (Abe Lodwick and Nikola Koprivia) were 4 for 6 together from the three point line. If we could get them to make at least two or three between the two of them every night it really helps our offense. It’s based on our 4-man (forward) touching a lot on the perimeter and open things up for other people.” - WSU Coach Ken Bone
The freshman combo of Reggie Moore and Xavier Thames played another nice game at point guard. Both continue to play with poise and composure that belies their tender age. Moore played 33 minutes of near flawless basketball knocking down 12 points and passing out 4 assists. When X came off the bench, the Cougs continued to play good basketball with him at the point.
Next up for Washington State is the first of three "home" games away from Pullman. The Cougars will take on Air Force Saturday afternoon at 1pm PST in the Spokane Arena. Bud Nameck reported tonight, on the Cougar Sports Radio Network , there might be a few seats left. For information call (800) GO-COUGS.
Originally published in Lew Wright's column on Examiner.com