Thompson caps worst week with his best game

WSU Hoops: Amazing 43-point effort vs. UW follows suspension for marijuana possession

March 13, 2011 

LOS ANGELES - For one week, Klay Thompson carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Finally, Thompson decided he would rather carry his team on his back.

Thompson scored 43 points Thursday night. Drained eight shots from 3-point range. Nailed shot after shot after shot to give his team the lead again and again and again in the second half at Staples Center.

In the end, it was all for naught. The Washington Huskies downed Washington State in a classic, 89-87, in the quarterfinals of the Pacific-10 Conference tournament.

Thompson was coming off a one-game suspension for misdemeanor marijuana possession after his truck was pulled over in Pullman on March 3. Thompson was publicly and privately bashed by his father, former Portland Trail Blazers star Mychal Thompson.

The younger Thompson, properly embarrassed, grabbed a microphone and apologized to fans prior to WSU’s final home game against UCLA.

Most fans seemed appreciative of Thompson’s gesture, and no doubt even more fans are willing to forgive after Thompson rendered his best Kobe Bryant impression at the very arena where Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers perform.

“Some shots he hit, I was like, ‘Man, is that Kobe?’ ” Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas said. “It felt like we had a hand up, and he was hitting them from everywhere. When a player can hit shots like that and get on a roll, it feels like the basket’s like the ocean. Everything is going in.

“He played a great game and fought hard.”

Some wondered if the soft-spoken, somewhat introverted Thompson might wilt under the pressure of even more scrutiny than he always faces as the Pac-10’s leading scorer.

Fat chance.

Thompson aggressively crashed through the lane for the first shot of the game, and when that shot didn’t fall, he launched a 3-pointer from the right corner a few seconds later.

The shot hit nothing but net. What followed was perhaps the greatest performance in Pac-10 tournament history, and one of the most memorable in WSU history. Thompson scored 14 points in the first nine minutes, and 25 in the last 17 minutes.

Afterward, Thompson struggled to control his emotions in a somber WSU locker room.

“I just played my game,” he said quietly. “I just played my game.”

The 43 points broke the tournament record and tied Thompson’s career high, set last season against San Diego in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage.

Informed that he set a tournament scoring record, Thompson muttered, “I could care less.”

The eight 3-pointers broke another tournament record and tied Thompson’s career best.

His 15 field goals tied a tournament record and were one shy of a career best. Thompson’s 29 field-goal attempts was a tournament and career high. The 14 3-point attempts tied tournament and career highs.

“We’re all very proud of Klay and the job he did,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “But whether a guy scores 50 or five, it’s always disappointing to lose.”

Thompson came up two shy of Brian Quinnett’s school record of 45 points, set in 1986-87. Thompson broke the WSU single-season record of 657 points, set by Isaac Fontaine in 1996-77. Eddie Hill’s school record of 233 career 3-pointers, held since 1993-94, also fell.

Thompson, a junior guard who has discussed the possibility of bypassing his senior year to turn pro, almost certainly will play at least one more game with the Cougars.

NIT-ology, a website dedicated to predicting the 32-team National Invitation Tournament field, lists Washington State (19-12) as a No. 2 seed. The NIT selection show will be televised at 6 p.m. today on ESPNU.

A home game might not be in the cards because Pullman will be largely deserted this week with students on spring vacation.

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