NIT Basketball 2011: Washington State Cougars End Season With a Thud
It's never a good thing when you're watching your team play and a graphic is thrown on the screen showing the largest loss in NIT history, while your team is dangerously close to claiming the throne in that category.
Tuesday night in New York City, the Wichita State Shockers (insert verb here) the Washington State Cougars 75-44 in the first of two NIT semifinal games in Madison Square Garden.
The creative answer to the verb insertion would be "shocked." I would say "stunned" is more like it. The Cougars came out from the opening tip and played like they'd all been hit with a stun gun and were slow from the get-go.
After falling behind quickly 7-0, Cougars' Reggie Moore hit a deep two from just inside the top of the three-point line to pull the Cougars within five. They would never get any closer.
The most telling tale was the hustle and physicality that the Shockers brought to the table, especially when it comes to rebounding. With just about four minutes in the game and the result already well decided, J.T. Durley of Wichita State missed a jump shot, but a 6'4" Graham Hatch jumped higher than the group of three Cougar players that stood under the basket and snatched the rebound allowing more time to run off the clock.
That was pretty much a microcosm of the entire game. The Shockers outrebounded the Cougars 51-21, with 17 of them coming on the offensive glass.
Wichita State was the better team tonight. And in a tournament style game, that's all it takes to win.
So when you have your leading scorer, who you rely heavily upon, commit more fouls than he scores points in the first half, it's almost a guarantee you're going to find yourself in a big hole.
Junior Klay Thompson, averaging 22 points a game this season for the Cougars, had undoubtedly his worst game of the year on the biggest stage. Scoring just two points in the first half while committing three fouls, he put the Cougar offense in neutral and it never got off the ground.
Give the Shockers defense credit, as they were hounding him for the entire time he was in the game. But also give the Cougar offense a lot of blame. Ball movement was slow, passes were not crisp, and the effort to gain any advantage in the paint was non-existent.
Thompson finished with just six points on 1-of-10 shooting, failing to connect from long distance. It was the second straight game Thompson did not have a three-point field goal. Not exactly the way he envisioned ending the season, and possibly his Cougar career.
The Cougars as a whole were 0-10 from three-point territory and no player scored in double figures. A dubious achievement that goes so far back I'm not even going to try and look that one up.
Leading the way for the Cougars were both Moore and DeAngelo Casto, who each tallied nine points.
Previewing this game, I noticed that Wichita State had only had a player score 20 points in a game three times this entire season.
Enter Garrett Stutz. The 7' junior from Kansas City, Missouri dropped a career-high 24 points on 10-13 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds. He almost single-handedly outscored the Cougars in the first half, racking up 18 points to the Cougars' 19 as the Shockers held a 36-19 halftime advantage.
The only reason the Cougars were even somewhat still in the game at halftime was thanks to Faisal Aden, who scored all eight of his points in the first half while Thompson was forced to sit on the bench.
Thompson picked up his second foul just three and a half minutes into the game, and after sitting shortly, head coach Ken Bone brought him back seeing his Cougars fall farther behind and needing an offensive spark. Instead Thompson picked up his third foul on an offensive charge and sat the remaining ten minutes of the first half.
I personally had no problem with Klay being inserted back in the game; it had to be done considering what was at stake and the current state of the game.
The numbers go on and on favoring Wichita State and don't need to be burned into the minds of Cougar fans as the Cougars now make the long cross country trip back home to Pullman.
In the end, the Washington State Cougars failed to show up and give its school and conference a good representation.
Now let the speculation begin about Thompson and even Casto. Should both come back, the Cougars will return everybody with the exception of seldom-used guard Ben Loewen and be in good shape to try and make a solid run to the NCAA tournament.
Should one or both leave, gaps will be created that can not be filled by just one player.
In the grand scheme of things, during the up down roller coaster that was the Washington State basketball season involving arrests, suspensions, unspeakable losses and unbelievable wins, I call this season a success.
It could've been better, should've been better, but all good things come to an end for all teams except one in any tournament.
And Wichita State will have a chance to be the last one smiling.
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