Published January 11, 2010
Uninspired Cougars suffer lopsided lossHOWIE STALWICK; For The Olympian
TEMPE, Ariz. - Sunday afternoon's basketball game at Wells Fargo Arena started one hour earlier than originally scheduled, but Washington State arrived right on time. Technically. For all intents and purposes, the Cougars never did show up. “We came out flat with no energy,” senior forward Nikola Koprivica said after the Cougars turned in a miserable performance at both ends of the floor in a 71-46 loss to Arizona State. The Cougars, who were averaging 80 points per game (second in the Pacific-10 Conference) and shooting a league-leading 49 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-pointers, set season lows for points, field-goal shooting percentage (29.8) and 3-point shooting percentage (15.4). “We just didn’t play well offensively,” WSU star Klay Thompson said with understatement. If it’s any consolation, the Cougars were every bit as awful on defense. “That was the main key: We didn’t play good defense,” Koprivica said. The Sun Devils, who were averaging just 58 points in Pac-10 games on ghastly 36 percent shooting from the field, nailed 51 percent of their shots. A gruesome number of those shots came against minimal resistance. “We just didn’t focus on defense,” Thompson said. Thompson, who started the day ranked fourth in NCAA Division I with 23.9 points per game, led the Cougars with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting. The Sun Devils, who play an aggressive 2-3 zone defense, were leading the nation in defense at 54.9 points alowed per game. WSU led last year at 55.4. “Our guys came out focused with a real purpose and set the tone on the defensive end,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. The Cougars fell behind by 15 points, closed the deficit to eight at the half, then vanished from the radar in the second half before 6,433 spectators. The 25-point margin of defeat was the most lopsided for WSU since a 67-37 loss at Oregon on Feb. 18, 2006. Koprivica and WSU coach Ken Bone said the young Cougars were thrown out of rhythm when regular starters DeAngelo Casto and Marcus Capers were benched for the start of the game. Casto was late for the bus to the game; Capers was late for the morning walk-through. In addition, key reserve James Watson showed up late for the walk-through, so Bone benched him until the second half. “It just kind of messes up your rotations,” Bone said. Matters worsened when Thompson went to the bench with his second foul after 51/2 minutes. Thompson was on the sideline for part of a 16-0 ASU run (following a 7-1 start by Washington State), and a stretch of almost nine minutes when WSU’s scoring consisted of three free throws. Former Phoenix prep star Ty Abbott, a junior guard who strongly considered attending WSU, contributed to the defensive effort and led the Sun Devils with 17 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. “He is tough-minded,” Sendek said. “He is tough physically. He’s a winner.” Arizona State (12-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-10) evened the all-time series with WSU at 32-32 after losing the previous six meetings. Washington State (12-4, 2-2) returns home to face California (10-5, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday. The game will not be televised.