Washington State Cougars Fall to No. 4 Pittsburgh in Legends Classic Final

Lew WrightSenior Writer INovember 29, 2008

Washington State was dealt their first loss of the season by a No. 4 Pittsburgh team that looked tough from beginning to end.  The win for the Panthers earned them the Legends Classic tournament championship and a perfect 7-0 start of their schedule.  WSU drops to 5-1.

Coach Tony Bennett's squad started the game nicely, including another win of the opening tip off by senior center Aron Baynes.

For the first ten minutes, Pittsburgh had troulbe trying to beat the Cougar defense. Pitt couldn't seem to buy a bucket early on while the Cougs were running out to a seven point advantage, 17-10.

Nothing went the Cougs way the rest of the evening.

Pittsburgh began to take the game over during a television time out with about seven minutes left in the first half.  For some reason, the officials opted to review a three-point bucket by WSU freshman Klay Thompson from very early in the first half. 

A replay clearly showed that Thompson was inside the new arc, one foot further out from the basket this season.  For that matter, it looked as though he had his foot on the old mark.  Not only did WSU lose a point, they seemed to lose their composure.

By halftime, the score was close with Pitt three points up, 26-23.  That was the only part of the game that was close.

Pitt out-rebounded WSU in the first half, an apparent weakness of the Cougs. They were out-hustled on the offensive boards 8-1.  That's sick.

Because WSU was careless with the ball, their ten first half turnovers negated shooting over 50% from the floor while holding the Panthers below 40%.  Ten turnovers in the first half?  You can't beat a Top 10 team making so many mistakes.

No need to panic at intermission.  WSU typically plays their best basketball at the beginning of the second half.  

Not tonight.

It was more of the same in the second half with one significant difference. Pitt began to make their shots.

Coach Bennett tried an number of player combinations in the second half, but none seemed effective.  When he had three freshman on the floor, they played pretty good "D."  That didn't make much of a difference because that group was completely lost on the offensive end of the court.

Frustration set in further and nothing fell for the Cougs.  

Thompson's jumper was off.  By game end, he was 3-12 from the field after missing his last nine shots in a row.

Baynes couldn't make a shot inside the paint.  Aron finished 3-8 shooting, but didn't try a shot further than five feet from the basket.  Sad.

Taylor Rochestie...Oh my.  Rochestie put together back-to-back miserable games.  Taylor turned the ball over time and time again.  He only made one bucket driving to the hoop.  Needless to say, Rochestie will be more than happy to get on a plane and get out of town.

Daven Harmeling scored a game high 12 points, thanks in part to adding about a 30 footer just before the final buzzer. No other Coug scored in double digits.

After shooting over 50% in the first half, the offensive collapse is revealed by the final stat of 35% from the field.  That just won't get the job done against a quality opponent.

However, holding a talented team like Pitt to just 57 points is certainly a bright spot to take away from this outing.

The Pitt game will give Coach Bennett plenty of footage to work on with his players. There needs to be coaching up on boxing out when on defense. That was a deficiency in both games played in New Jersey. Entry passes to Baynes need to be crisper and Aron has to come to the ball.  Pitt stole three or four lobs into the post.

In short, the mistakes the Cougs made to lose this game can be corrected. Overall, they are a very athletic looking group that should learn from playing an excellent basketball like Pittsburgh.

Next up for Coach Bennett and the Cougars is Idaho State next Tuesday back home in Pullman. There are plenty of kinks to work out before then.