Unfortunately, the truth is the truth is the truth when it comes to Washington State basketball these past five seasons, all guided by Ken Bone. It happened again Wednesday in Palo Alto when the Stanford Cardinal took what was a 27-27 tie with 4 minutes to go in the first half and romped all over the Cougars the rest of the way. The final, merciful margin of victory was 32, good for an 80-48 loss.
The absolute worst part about it is that it comes on the heels of a great week, which included a 49-46 win over Utah and was even preceded before that by a 70-71 loss in OT against Colorado. But the truth came out again, and I knew that it would. Immediately after the Utah game, these tweets came in succession:
Did we really just win a game scoring 49 points?
— Wazzu’sJobu (@WazzusJobu) January 13, 2014
Let me tell you, I hate to be right when it comes to this, but it hasn’t changed for the past five seasons. A groundbreaking effort in a loss is followed by a win you never thought was coming and then you get hope that this team has turned the corner. Then all hope is massacred in multiple performances that defy logic in progress the very next week. It’s as if the Cougars forget how to play basketball.
Despite analysts continuing to falsely accuse WSU for going in with a “great gameplan”, the Cougars will lose by 15, 20, 30 or more! They aren’t even a version of competitiveness and it’s completely, ruthlessly predictable.
True, this has never been a basketball powerhouse, but we’ve seen it doesn’t have to be like that. At least there are some things that it definitely does not have to be like. I love this Ken Bone Death Watch edition of the Gravitron Diaries a week or two back by CougCenter, pointing out the challenges of WSU basketball and the kind of luck it takes to win big here in the Northwest. But I also think that’s a little bit coaching. Ok, a lot coaching.
It’s not like Derrick Lowe, Kyle Weaver and Aaron Baynes were more athletic than Que Johnson, Royce Woolridge and Jordan Railey. Robbie Cowgill was certainly no DJ Shelton in the athletic department and the same is true for a Taylor Rochestie and Ikenna Iroegbu. It could even be argued that DaVonte Lacy (though currently injured) is every bit of what Klay Thompson brought to the table, though it’s not easy to realize. And yes, I know Klay and those other guys were part of different teams but the point does not change. You could throw Marcus Capers and those other guys that made a run in there too.
That was a special group, no doubt, but it was not their talents that defined their ability to compete, it was their coach finding a way to make them better as a team than what they were as individuals. You never saw a team just flop out of Palo Alto like a fish out of water, especially after a huge win just days earlier. Heck even on their worst nights, they were competitive because they wanted it.
That fire is lacking in the current basketball team and it’s inexplicable, except that the coaching staff just doesn’t have the skill to bring that drive out of their players. Ken Bone said this (again) after last nights’ game:
“I don’t know why we didn’t play with the same amount of intensity and energy. We have to compete harder than that.
We had a hard time scoring in the paint and right around the rim. We put the ball up on the rim and it just did not go in.”
If I had a dime for every time he said that…
After five years Ken? Five years of Pac-12 basketball where the same thing has happened almost every single weekend after a “big” win? You just ‘don’t know’ why your team doesn’t compete? You could start with the head coach and work your way back from there. One timeout used in the midst of a 20-5 run that closed the half? With the game tied take a guy that had scored 18 of your 27 out of the game with 4:00 to go because he has two fouls? Then, after the run given up as a result of that mistake the team doesn’t even attempt to come out playing hard in the 2nd half. You take no chances and your teams play consistently lethargically, but you’re really not sure?
Unfortunately, it’s the Ken Bone legacy and since it seems to run in stretches, a bounce back does not seem likely against California on Saturday. Make no mistake, challenges and all, the Cougars can be competitive with the talent they do have. Every few weeks they prove they can beat just about anybody this conference can throw at them, but at any other time they don’t really care to try because nothing more is expected of them. There is a losing mentality on this team.
The clock is ticking…