PULLMAN, WA—Washington State (10-3, 0-1) will end 2009 on a foul note.
The Oregon Ducks (9-4, 1-0) extended their current win streak to five games with a double-overtime Pac-10 opening victory on the road by a final score of 91-89.
Early on in this one, it didn't appear that Coach Ken Bone's team was going to give the Ducks much of a game.
Oregon moved out to a 15-point lead in the first half primarily because WSU couldn't make their shots fall.
WSU would knot the score early at 2-2. They wouldn't get that close to Oregon again until about three minutes left in regulation when they caught the Ducks at 62-62.
It was the physical play of Oregon which may have made a difference early on. Coach Bone watched his team work the motion offense but couldn't get their shots through the net.
As cold as the Cougs were shooting in the first half, they roared back into the game in the second.
WSU trailed by eleven, 38-27, at intermission due to a buzzer-beater by Garrett Sim when it appeared WSU would be down by single-digits. You might say the wild finish to the first half was typical of the way things went all game for Coach Bone and the Cougs.
Along with the unusually cold shooting by Washington State in the first half, for the first time this season Reggie Moore found himself in foul trouble picking up his third before the break.
WSU continued to be off their game to begin the second half. Michael Dunigan, who had an outstanding game in the middle for Oregon, scored four quick points to push his team's lead back up to 15 at 42-27.
The Cougs finally got out of first gear and began playing the kind of basketball fans have enjoyed watching over the past few weeks. Before Coach Ernie Kent could wipe the grin off his face, WSU went on a 10-0 run to make it a game. They made their run without the fine leadership of their freshman point guard Moore who went to the bench at the 17:15 mark with his fourth foul.
Without their point guard, Klay Thompson went into his "scoring" mode. Klay was a sub-par 6-19 from the field and a shocking 2-10 from behind the 3-point line. Even on an off night, Thompson found a way to score.
He forced Oregon defenders into fouling him not once, not twice, but three times attempting treys. He converted 8-9 of those charity shots and finished the game with career highs of 19 free throws made out of 21 chances and would finish with a game-high 33 points.
Coach Bone's team came together as a team in their overtime win over LSU last week. They looked every bit the part of a team on the hardwood floor of Friel Court on Thursday night.
With the enthusiastic support of the 5,810 on hand for the game, it was Washington State who looked confident when the game went into overtime.
Early in the week Coach Bone talked about how dangerous a player 5'6" guard Tajuan Porter is for Oregon. Yet in regulation, WSU was able to contain the diminutive senior, holding him to just 13 points on 5-14 shooting. It was Porter who single-handedly kept Oregon in the game during the overtime periods. At one point he scored 18 consecutive points for the Ducks, finishing the game with a team-high 31 points.
Despite the heroics of Porter, it appeared the Cougs would prevail in the first overtime. When DeAngelo Casto took a crisp, accurate pass from Thompson, his basket put WSU up 80-78 with just 0.3 seconds left in the first overtime period.
The Washington State players exploded up from their seats, riding the emotional high created down low by Casto with the easy bucket. The Cougs had come all the way back to win their second consecutive overtime game. But wait...
For reasons unknown to everyone in attendance, with the exception of the guys wearing the dark green uni's, the officials were huddling near the scorer's table. Unbelievably, the referee charged the WSU bench with a 2-shot technical foul for celebrating with 0.3 seconds left on the game clock.
The men in the striped shirts, easily mistaken for Foot Locker employees, made the decision to deny players efforts to play the game as it should be. They opted to ignore the tremendous effort put forth by both squads and invoke their personal imprint on a contest that normally is decided by the young men passionately playing the game.
Credit Porter with calmly knocking down the two free throws to knot the score at 80-80 and forcing a second overtime. Porter had nothing to do with the ridiculous call. He was going to do what players do and do his best to score.
No need to replay the end of the second overtime. However, the officials left their mark on the game one more time.
With the score tied at 89-89, Oregon was able to exploit a lapse by WSU and get an outlet pass to Malcolm Armstead who laid it in for the winning bucket. Ironically, Armstead's shot went through the net with just 0.3 seconds left in the second overtime.
Naturally, the Oregon bench exploded jubilantly in reaction to what appeared to be the bucket giving them a hard-fought win.
Oregon was allowed to do what college basketball teams should be allowed to do. They celebrated the effort of their teammates without being T'd up by the guys with whistles and fashion problems.
After the game, Coach Bone was decidedly somber. As a good head coach should, he put things in perspective. Here's what he said to his team:
"...try to keep (your) heads up, turn the page and move on to the next game. It's a tough way to lose a game but there's not a lot we can do about it now. Get on to the next task which is the Oregon State game on Saturday."
"I thought our guys showed a lot of toughness, a lot of character. We were down 15 on our home court and not playing well and yet sticking with the game plan. Working hard, playing together, came back to battle and have a great chance to win the game. We put ourselves in a situation to win it. That's not easy when you're down 15 playing the way we did early on. I thought the guys did some really good things."
The Cougs will get a chance to pick up a conference win Saturday when they host the Oregon State Beavers.
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU Sports column on Examiner.com