PULLMAN - The Washington State Cougars have played basketball since 1901, but rarely have the Cougars been involved in a game as captivating as Thursday afternoon's double-overtime, 91-89 loss to Oregon in the Pacific-10 Conference opener for both teams.
The Cougars erased a 15-point deficit to force overtime; blew an apparent victory in the first overtime after a technical foul with three-tenths of a second left set up a pair of free throws made by Oregon’s Tajuan Porter; then went down to defeat when Malcolm Armstead drove through the lane to score the winning basket with a half-second to go.
“Our guys showed a lot of toughness,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “A lot of character.”
Unfortunately for the young Cougars, they also showed a lack of poise after DeAngelo Casto scored a last-second layup in the first overtime. The Cougars earned a technical when, according to lead official Mike Littlewood, multiple “bench personnel” stepped on to the floor after Oregon had received the ball and the 5-second count for in-bounding the ball had begun.
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Bone said Oregon freshman Jamil Wilson left the bench area and stepped on to the floor after Armstead’s winning basket. However, Armstead was fouled on the play – he deliberately missed the free throw to take more time off the clock – and Littlewood said Oregon did not earn a technical because play was dead after Armstead was fouled.
“I need to trust that they made the right call (after Casto’s basket) and then they made the right non-call (after Armstead’s basket),” Bone said.
Bone and Cougars players did not complain about the technical in postgame interviews, but Casto said, “It’s one of those things, it takes your heart out.”
Both teams played with plenty of heart, although the Cougars (10-3) were thoroughly outplayed in the first half by the Ducks (9-4) at Friel Court. Oregon, coming off a last-place finish in the Pac-10, had lost 16 straight road games since November 2008.
Porter, a 155-pound shooting guard who suddenly claims to be 5-foot-7 after being listed at 5-6 his first three years at Oregon, scored 18 of his 31 points after regulation. Five of his six 3-pointers (in 14 attempts) were delivered in the game’s final 12 minutes, most coming from beyond 22 feet.
“When he gets in one of those rhythms, he’s the most amazing player I’ve seen for a guy his size, the shots he can make,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.
“He came up big,” Washington State forward Nikola Koprivica said. “He hit some tough, tough, deep shots.”
Pac-10 scoring leader Klay Thompson fought through a tough shooting night (6 of 19 from the field, including 2 of 10 on 3-pointers) to score 33 points in 49 minutes for WSU. The sophomore wing nailed 19 of 21 free throws – both career highs – but Armstead scored the last of his 16 points to win the game after Thompson missed a baseline jumper with about 7 seconds.
Sophomore posts Michael Dunigan and Casto engaged in a spirited battle down low. The 6-10, 242-pound Dunigan outscored the 6-8, 241-pound Casto 22-15 and had a 5-2 edge in blocked shots. Both had 12 rebounds.
The game drew 5,810 despite snowy weather during Christmas break, when most WSU students are out of town.
“What a great job he’s done,” Kent said of Bone, WSU’s first-year coach. “He’s changed their style of play (more up-tempo). They’re every bit as good as their record.”
Oregon State comes to Pullman at 4 p.m. Saturday (FSN).