Washington State is really good, for about 34:00. In fact if they could shorten games by about 6 minutes they might only have 1 loss to Kansas on the season and Ken Bone might be the Pac-12 C.O.T.Y. But unfortunately, it’s a 40:00 basketball game and WSU just simply cannot handle a lead in that time frame.
Again Wednesday night, the Cougars played well enough to win for most of the game against a very, very good Oregon Ducks team at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene. Again, they lost. This time it was a 10 point halftime lead at 37-27 that the Cougs blew, with just a little help from a certain EJ Singler, who just might be the best player the Pac-12 has to offer.
It didn’t help that the Cougs forgot about him for about a 4 minute stretch while he repeatedly stole their cookies. I hate to blame one guy, but DKD (Dexter Kernich-Drew) left an open flame out in the woods and then no one could put it out. He was charged with Singler at critical stretches of the game and just wandered around like a lost kid at a county fair while Singler highlight reeled for 4 straight minutes. He wasn’t the only one put on Singler, but all I know is, he started there and Singler was hardly covered after that.
On the other hand, there’s more. While Mike Ladd played a brilliant first half with 14, 6 and 5, he had a very unspectacular meltdown at the free throw line and in general late in the game. WSU was 12 of 13 from the line at one point in time, but #2 missed 4 of 6 to end the contest in the final moments. In a 7 point loss, that’s just huge!
So there’s the individual efforts, then there’s the team efforts. After shooting lights out for the first 3/4 of the ballgame, the entire team went into a shell as Oregon started throwing a zone defense at them. Absolutely nobody wanted to shoot. That didn’t work of course (as it rarely does) and the Cougs ended up with two shot clock violations and a contested, terrible 3 point shot by Shelton (not your three point shooter) in a “must have” possession late in the game.
Then, there’s the coaching. In yet another “must have” possession with about a minute left, Steven Hayenga was pulled off of the end of the bench to be the clutch scorer. Stop me if I forgot something, but Ladd has 17 points at the time (including 2 threes), Kernich Drew who’s drained 2-4 from 3, you own the Pac-12’s leading scorer and maybe best player on the perimeter in Brock Motum, and Steven Hayenga who hasn’t played in at least a month is your dark-horse for 3 with a minute to go down 7?
And coach Bone’s explanation was that “he has been lighting it up in practice”. This is a fire-able offense, as far as any type of winning A.D. is concerned. I’m not trying to speak for ours, but I can’t help but to think that it doesn’t sit well in the upper office. I know it doesn’t sit well among the faithful.
Why wasn’t Hayenga used in a non-stress situation before he was pulled into the blaze of a 7 point deficit on the road against the #16 team in the nation and asked to make a basket? Talk about dousing any confidence the kid had, along with your teams’ confidence in you as a coach. That is definitely not putting your team in the best position to win.
I want success for Bone and this team, this year. They are Cougs and I want them to succeed as much as anybody. We have to see better decision making though, especially down the stretch. Some of the excuses right now center around our inept offense, but honestly it’s not inept until the final 6 minutes of the basketball game. We’re winning 85% of the game against nearly everybody and then suddenly we’re not good enough to finish. It just doesn’t make sense.
Maybe Oregon just isn’t a good example, being that they’re a really good club. But I can’t help but to think that this will happen for most of the remaining games. After all, we’ve seen it before.