Can a game of any sport be described as ugly and exciting in the same sentence? Those two adjectives seem fitting for a 84-70 Washington State win over Oregon State last night in Pullman.
A slow game with a combined 40 fouls and 50 free-throw attempts saw the Cougars pull ahead by as many as 19 in the first half. The Beavers clawed their way back to within four at 61-57 with 7:33 remaining in the game before the Cougars finally solved the Beavers' pesky 1-3-1 defense and pulled away to bring their record to 11-4 overall, 1-2 in the conference.
Klay Thompson, who earlier on Thursday was named one of the 30 midseason candidates for the Wooden Award, dropped 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting, and for the second straight game he recorded a double-double with another 10-rebound performance.
Another big contributor to the victory was guard Reggie Moore, as he scored 11 points and dished out a season-high nine assists to go along with five rebounds. All above his average on the year.
The excitement came after the wily Cougar began breaking the half-court traps and finding easy lay-ins thrown in with some thunderous dunks by DeAngelo Casto.
But it was Thompson who brought the house down with about two minutes to go when he found himself near the top of the three-point circle and—for a brief moment—saw the lane just part like the Red Sea. Thompson, wasting no time, drove to the basket and flushed an uncontested tomahawk jam that was the nail in the coffin for any Beaver believer thinking their team could come back.
Thompson, publicly seen as a quiet player on the court with the sweet jump shot, has made waves like this before. The first time was against Stanford as a freshman. His quiet demeanor is what makes his dunks all the more spectacular—they don't come often, but you better have your camera ready for when they do.
Along with Thompson and Moore, Faisal Aden scored 15 and junior Marcus Capers notched a season-high 12 points, eight of which came from the free-throw line as he was the target of Oregon State's late fouls to try to creep back in the game in the closing minutes.
In my previous article, I wrote that Brock Motum needed to get more playing time; however, head coach Ken Bone seems content on letting this team run with perimeter players. Motum saw just 15 minutes of action and scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting while grabbing five boards.
Tomorrow the Cougars host the 7-8 Oregon Ducks, who are still winless in the conference in three attempts after coming off an 87-69 loss to Washington last night. Oregon actually led briefly early in the second half, but eventually the Huskies pulled away.
A similar effort by the Cougars will be necessary to complete this two-game homestand sweep that I believe is critical if this team wants to get its early season mojo back and contend for an NCAA tournament berth come March.