It was all right there for the Cougs in the second half, but as was the case when they struggled late in the season, the free throw line was brutal to a typically really good shooting team. In fact we went a blistering 8 of 10 to start the game, but then went only 7 of our next 15 at a crucial point in the game when Pitt was getting dunks and layups and converting their free throws. The Panthers widened a tie ball game at 42-42 to a 55-45 margin in a 5 or 6 minute stretch where we lived at the line but just couldn’t feast. Behind the help of a tremendous 2 turnover effort, and a solid day at the free throw line themselves, Pitt was able to secure the CBI Trophy with the 71-65 win.
After the Pitt run, Washington State simply couldn’t close the gap. They had one single chance to do it with just over 3 minutes to go, after Reggie Moore scored back to back and spliced the Pitt lead to 6. The Panthers took a shot late in the shot clock and missed badly, and Charlie Enquist collected the board, but the senior made a crucial mistake and paid no attention to tourney MVP Lamar Patterson, who had been pushed out of bounds on the fight for the rebound and quickly retreated onto the court to dart between Enquist and Moore. Charlie threw the ball straight into the arm of Patterson, who went and collected his deflection and set up a play which ultimately ended up in 2 points. This was the 4 point swing that finished the Cougs, as Abe Lodwick and DaVonte Lacy missed a 3 each and D.J. Shelton’s difficult reverse teased the rim before falling off during the final stretch.
Looking at the bad: I feel really bad for Sr Marcus Capers, the kid played his heart out every night and played the most we’ve ever seen a Cougar play, I believe the total is 135 games! Congratulations to him, but he couldn’t ever get any kind of championship and it’s a shame, because if Brock Motum stays healthy I think it’s safe to say that we could’ve been flying home with that trophy. On that not I also feel really bad for Brock, I know he wanted to help and we all know he was the difference in the series. After such a great season you would’ve liked to have seen him compete in at least one of these games. In continuation, Abe and Charlie were never the most talented guys, but they played hard and their effort will be missed.
Looking at the good: You have to feel good as a Coug fan that the team showed a tremendous amount of resolve and grit without their star and points leader. How about Reggie freaking Moore?! I think he learned a lot about himself in the final 4 games, like the fact that he can be a force and completely control the tempo of a game. If he does that with the big Aussie in the game, the Cougs will be tough to guard next season. And congratulations Reggie, by the way for setting the single season Assist record at Washington State. But next year, could you score a little more please, because we’re better when you play that way!
Adding a year of strength to Lacy, more balance to Mike Ladd and a bigger, more aggressive Shelton and you have a starting 5 that will be at least formidable at every position for the entire PAC-12 season. The question mark will of course be the bench, which really let the Cougs down over these final two games in Pittsburgh and will be very young with very little experience. But there is no doubt that the recruiting class is highly touted, at least by our standards, so we’ll see.
Well, it’s over. I would say I feel really bad about ending it the way we did, but honestly we didn’t expect to get an invite to a tournament, and I’m not sure we expected to get by the first round once we were invited. The experience for the guys and to play the way we did for 3 weeks was really good and you can’t say we didn’t get better. So I have to say I’m not all too sad, certainly not as sad as the Sweet 16 loss to UNC or even last years NIT final 4 game. We’ll keep you updated on all our hoops during the offseason, but for now, we’ll just leave you with the hope of next season.