Washington State Tops Long Beach State for First Postseason Win in 4 Years

Kip ArneyCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10:  Brock Motum #12 of the Washington State Cougars goes up for a dunk over Aziz N'Diaye #5 of the Washington Huskies in the second half in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Non-Invited Tournament.

Non-Important Tournament.

Those are just a couple words phrase choices I've heard about the National Invitational Tournament, which is taking place side by side with the NCAA tournament this month.

The Washington State Cougars have probably heard them too, and it wouldn't shock me if those words were floating around in their heads during their sloppy 85-73 victory over Long Beach State Wednesday night.

The first-round victory over the 49ers was the Cougars' first postseason victory since 2007, when they advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

But, it was sloppy on both sides, more so for 49ers who didn't crack double digits in the scoring column until a lay-in by Big West Player of the Year Casper Ware with 5:35 left in the first half.

The Cougars held the 49ers to just 18 first-half points, a season low for them, and they missed all nine attempts from beyond the arc.

Turnovers were the name of the game as the two teams racked up 34 between them, including 19 by the Cougars, one short of their season high. It was the fourth time the Cougars have committed 18 or more turnovers, however, they've won every one of those games, three of them by double digits.

Klay Thompson led the way with 25 points and his shooting partner in crime, Faisal Aden, chipped in with 19.

Aden, who had started the season off strong, hit a wall when Pac-10 play began and his scoring suffered along with the Cougars need for points. In the months of January and February, Faisal Aden scored in double figures just five times overall. However, his 19 point effort against Long Beach State was his fourth consecutive double digit scoring night in March.

Despite the Cougars holding an 18 point lead at half time, the Niners were able to close the gap to within five points with 13 minutes to go, thanks to a three point shooting barage by senior Greg Plater. He scored all 14 of his points in those first seven minutes of the second half.

Though the they were not able to play infront of a normally raucous home crowd because the students were on Spring Break, the schedule is set up nicely for them. They will host Oklahoma State next on Monday, when school will be back in session.

The last time these two schools met on the court was back in 2004, where the Cowboys performed a clinic on the Cougars with a 81-29 beatdown in Stillwater, Okla.

That was Dick Bennett's first season as Cougars head coach, and the team had started the revival of Cougar basketball with four unknown freshmen named Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low, Robbie Cowgill and Daven Harmeling.

The Cougars will have an opportunity to host a third game should Boston College lose to Northwestern tomorrow.

But first things first. Beat the Cowboys on Monday.

Oklahoma State is an intriguing team because they have 11 players who average more than 13 minutes a game and only two who see over 23 minutes a game. That either means they're balanced, or they don't have that one guy who can take over a game like Thompson can for the Cougs.

Junior DeAngelo Casto, who has been on a tear as of late, will have his work cut out for him both offensively and defensively, as he'll most likely be matched up with the 'Boys Marshall Moses throughout the game.

Senior Marshall Moses led the Cowboys in points and rebounds this season, averaging 14 and seven. He is capable of total domination if the matchup is right. Before Big-12 conference play started, Moses went off for back-to-back 30-point games.

Washington State might not be in the big tournament, and in my opinion, the Cougars are not quite ready yet. Their inconsistency each night shows me that they're not mature enough to handle the big stage. When you're winning by double digits and still committing lots of turnovers, that shows me overconfidence, a feeling the Cougars have no right to.

A win on Monday night could go a long way for this team's confidence and stability and maybe, just maybe, they'll have that one shining moment in Madison Square Garden on March 31st.