STANFORD, Calif. - Their starting point guard was suspended, they couldn't buy a basket in the first half, and they trailed by nine at halftime in an arena where they had lost five years in a row.
Clearly, it was gut-check time for the Washington State Cougars.
Judging from the Cougars’ 61-58 Pacific-10 Conference victory over Stanford, everyone’s guts checked out just fine Saturday night before a crowd of 5,803 at Maples Pavilion.
“It was a must-win situation, it really was,” junior forward Abe Lodwick said after knocking down two free throws – his only points of the game – with 5.9 seconds to go. Stanford’s Jeremy Green missed a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
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The Cougars (13-5 overall, 3-3 Pac-10) snapped a four-game road losing streak and a 10-game road losing streak against Pac-10 opponents. The result snapped an eight-game home unbeaten streak for the Cardinal (10-6, 3-2).
As usual, All-America candidate Klay Thompson led the Cougars in scoring (21 points) and with his overall play. The Cougars could not have won, however, without the 20 points and key defensive contributions of Faisal Aden.
“He did a great job,” WSU coach Ken Bone said.
“He’s got a great feel for the game,” said Thompson, who passed Bennie Seltzer to move into sixth place in career scoring at Washington State.
Aden, a starter earlier in the season when Reggie Moore was sidelined with a fractured wrist, returned to the starting lineup when Bone suspended Moore indefinitely prior to the game.
A WSU spokesperson said Bone made the decision after learning more about Moore’s arrest last week for misdemeanor marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession. Moore’s status will continue to be evaluated.
Aden said he would “prefer to start,” but the junior guard stressed that he would rather come off the bench if it is best for the team. Marcus Capers handled most of the point-guard duties.
“If we would have lost this one,” Aden said, “it would have been tough to (win the Pac-10), so we kind of left our hearts out there.”
WSU struggled on offense in the first half against Stanford’s league-leading defense. The Cougars moved the ball much more efficiently in the second half after Bone stressed the need to pass more.
The Cougars trailed most of the way, but overcame 41 percent shooting from the field (22 percent on 3-pointers) by holding Stanford to 34 and 32 percent, respectively. The undersized Cougars had a 30-18 advantage in points in the paint, partly because Aden scored more on drives than usual.
Green led Stanford with 13 points on 5-for-16 shooting. Josh Owen added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Thompson and Lodwick led WSU with eight rebounds. Thompson tied his career high with three blocked shots.
The Cardinal was coming off a win Thursday over No. 17 Washington.
WSU is home Thursday to face Arizona State at 7 p.m.