Pullman, WA – There was plenty of exciting Pac-10 basketball played on Friel Court Thursday night in Pullman, WA. When the dust settled and the time clock displayed 00:00, Washington State (12-4, 2-3) found themselves on the short end of a 93-88 score. The visiting Cal Bears (11-5, 3-1) were weary but happy at the end of the game having survived their first conference road match of the season.
Coach Ken Bone looked on as his Cougars started the game stone cold, opposite of the torrid Bears. Just minutes into the beginning of the first half, Cal raced out to an overwhelming 26-8 lead by converting 10 of their first 13 shots.
Coach Bone used two of his timeouts at this early stage of the game, attempting to slow down the Bears. Instead of taking Cal out of their rhythm, WSU couldn’t find theirs. The Cougs were as frigid as the temperature outside Beasley Coliseum, converting just 3 of 12 field goal shots. They were being out-hustled by Cal on the boards 10-2.
“They set the tone for themselves in the first eight minutes,” lamented Coach Bone after the game. “That’s where the game was won or lost.”
Instead of Coach Mike Montgomery calmly leading his experienced team to an easy win, Cal found themselves in a tough ball game when the Cougs finally had enough and played good ball.
WSU clawed all the way back into the game, trailing by just four points at the break, 41-37.
As you’d expect, Cal couldn’t maintain their sharpshooting percentage for 40 minutes. Just as the Bears raced out to make quick transition baskets after a WSU shot clanked off the rim to begin the game, the Cougs played determined basketball to battle back and make a game of it.
The momentum of the first half turned when senior Nikola Koprivica came into the game at the 12:59 mark. Nik’s energy and physical play seemed to inspire WSU.
Moments after exchanging buckets to open the second half, Cal crept out to a ten-point lead at 52-42 on the scoring of seniors Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher .
Though Coach Montgomery’s rotation was limited because of injuries, the troops available played their hearts out. You’d expect that from veterans Randle, Christopher and Theo Robertson . Each played significant minutes. Each played at a very high level.
Jerome Randle shattered his previous career scoring mark of 31 with a much needed 39-point effort. He was spectacular at both ends of the court, creating 2 steals, grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 9 assists. The young man simply played outstanding basketball.
“(Randle’s) a great player, probably a reason why he played 40 minutes. Coach Montgomery understands how valuable he is to have on the court. We’re trying to guard him with some kids that are in their first or second year in the Pac-10 and he’s… tough to defend.” - WSU Coach Ken Bone
Reggie Moore continued his development as the top freshman in the Pac-10. Moore seemed to be everywhere on the court and set a personal career scoring mark and led the Cougs with 25 points, 5 assists and a pair of steals. He played under control, turning the ball over just once.
It was somewhat of an off night for Klay Thompson who finished with 18 points on 6-16 shooting and coughed up an uncharacteristic 4 turnovers. Klay had a number of good looks at the basket, but couldn’t find the bottom of the net with consistency.
In the end, Washington State just couldn’t overcome the huge deficit handed them by the hard-charging Bears early on.
“The intensity turned in the second half, we let them catch up and WSU became the aggressor. WSU played well, (Xavier) Thames and (Reggie) Moore played well. We were on our heels on defense, something to work on.” - Cal Coach Mike Montgomery
“We started to play with a good level of toughness and a little bit of grit and just battled once we were down 20. That’s the disappointing thing. We got down 20 to start the game. That wasn’t all our bad play. They came out and played well. Cal also shot the ball extremely well. They had a great first eight minutes and it was hard to overcome that.” - Coach Ken Bone
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU Sports column on Examiner.com