The Washington State basketball team is looking at a 9-4 start to this 2012/2013 season, which of course is good, but not great. When you consider that the Cougars have only really been beaten in one of those contests (the one against Kansas), it becomes a little less good. WSU actually lost the other three games, as opposed to being beat in them. All three of the other games were lost by a grand total of 5 points.
Let’s take a look at the plays that we think could have the Cougs 12-1 heading into this weekends’ matchup with the Washington Huskies:
Pepperdine 58 WSU 56 (OT):
The Cougs went on the road for the first time this season and played well for most of the game, but couldn’t put away the Waves and then blew it. After being up 50-42 late in the game, the Cougars couldn’t stop Pepperdine from tying the game and taking it to overtime. Late in OT Pepperdine took the lead by 1. Washington State had the ball with a chance to win with under 20 seconds to play, and Royce Woolridge had the ball in his hands with a decision to make. After taking a lot of the clock up, and with plenty of room to maneuver, the lack of time and experience at PG showed up at the worst time, as he tried to force the ball to a doubled-up Brock Motum just inside the 3 point line. The ball went off Motum’s hands and Pepperdine secured it and a victory.
Texas A&M 55 WSU 54:
The Cougs had just been blown out of the gym in Kansas City by the Kansas Jayhawks the night before, but A&M had been similarly blown away by St. Louis. The key in the KU game was that defensive rotations were terribly slow and late over and over again. This one came right down to the end and again WSU lost the game as the clock ran out. Once again it was the defense that failed the Cougars, after D.J. Shelton had missed the second free throw that could have given them a 3 point lead. A slow read and rotation allowed ex-Husky Elston Turner to get off a relatively clean look from the top of the key and beyond the 3 point line. The shot went down and so did Washington State.
Gonzaga 71 WSU 69:
It would be somewhat easy to say that the layup by Kevin Pangos to win the game with just a couple seconds left was the play of the game, but it wasn’t. The biggest play was made by Kelly Olynyk, who really came up huge for the Bulldogs in the 2nd half. Olynyk made a strong finish to give Gonzaga a 1 point lead with just 1:29 left and earned a trip to the free throw line in the process. He missed the free throw but redeemed himself after GU retained possession with an offensive rebound. After running the shot clock down, Olynyk received the ball at the top of the key and drilled his first 3 pointer of the season, stinting all of the WSU momentum and giving GU a 4 point lead. It wasn’t insurmountable, as the Cougs tied it, but with a simple defensive rebound on a free throw, who knows if the Cougs could have taken a late lead and won it.
So there you have it. Washington State was that close to a 12-1 record at this point in the season. They’re getting better but still suffering from inexperience at the point guard position and a lack of true depth in the front court. We’ll see how well they can compete in the Pac-12.