May 12, 2010
A new decade brought a new era of basketball to Washington State University. Out were the most decorated coach and one of the most accomplished senior classes in school history. In to lead the Cougars in the 2010 campaign was Ken Bone.
Bone was hired April 7, 2009, to replace Tony Bennett. Bone came to the Palouse from Portland State where he led the Vikings to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and 23-win seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
In addition to Bone and four other new members of the coaching staff, six incoming freshmen joined the Cougar squad for the 2009-10 season. The group, including four in-state additions, teamed up with a young nucleus of players and one senior leader.
Nikola Koprivica was the lone upperclassmen on the Cougar roster, and entered the season with a chance to become the all-time wins leader at WSU. Koprivica, a native of Serbia, played the role of veteran leader on a team full of youth and promise.
Also back from the 2008-09 NIT team were redshirt sophomores Charlie Enquist and Abe Lodwick, and sophomores Marcus Capers, DeAngelo Casto, Michael Harthun and Klay Thompson. Returning from redshirt seasons were John Allen, Ben Loewen and James Watson.
Bone was able to retain the commitments of three players who signed National Letters of Intent with Washington State under Bennett, Anthony Brown, Brock Motum and Xavier Thames. In his first four months at the controls of the Cougar program, Bone inked two more newcomers, Reggie Moore and Steven Bjornstad.
The early part of the season brought more similarities than differences for Cougar fans. The nonconference slate started with six-straight wins, a tournament title and a nail-biter against regional rival Gonzaga. The team entered conference play on a four-game win streak, including a three-game tour of Washington with stops in Spokane, Kennewick and Seattle.
Something new to Cougar followers was the way the team was lighting up the scoreboard, especially Thompson. The leading returning scorer from 2009 posted 20-point outings in each of the Cougars' first six games, and he was averaging a national-best 28.3 points per game through November.
Thompson's run included a 37-point effort at home against IPFW, and was capped by a career-high 43 points against San Diego in the title game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
WSU routed San Diego 93-56 to earn the tournament championship and improve its season record to 6-0 for the third time in four years. Thompson knocked down 16-of-24 shots against the Toreros, including 8-of-13 from beyond the arc en route to being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
His 43 points broke Glenn Robinson's Great Alaska Shootout single-game and championship game records. He averaged more than 29.6 points per game during the three games and tied for second in tournament history with 89 total points. Thompson led the tournament in points, scoring average, 3-point field goals made, 3-point field goals attempted and free throws, and was ranked in the top five in assists, steals, blocks and minutes played.
WSU returned to the lower 48 for a pair of tough road games at Gonzaga and Kansas State. In Spokane, the Cougars jumped out to a 39-27 halftime lead, but then-career highs from Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris allowed the Bulldogs to pull out a 74-69 victory. In the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series the Cougars took on eventual Elite Eight member Kansas State. The Wildcats used 16 first-half turnovers by WSU to build a 17-point halftime lead and cruised to a victory of the same margin.
The Cougars came back to Pullman to defeat border-rival Idaho before embarking on a 10-day, three-city tour of Washington. WSU took on Air Force in Spokane, Portland State in Kennewick and LSU in the Cougar Hardwood Classic at KeyArena in Seattle to close out the nonconference slate.
WSU won all three games on the trip and carried an 11-2 record into the Pac-10 schedule. The excursion was highlighted by a 72-70 overtime victory against LSU and a scorching-hot shooting night against Portland State. The Cougars shot 63.5 percent from the floor and went 13-for-16 from beyond the arc against the Vikings. The 81.3 percent mark from 3-point land is the best performance in school history.
Back on the Palouse, the Cougars began the conference schedule against the Oregon schools. Despite 33 points from Thompson against Oregon, a controversial call allowed 50 minutes of hard-fought basketball to end in heartbreak for the Cougars. The Ducks squeaked out a 91-89 double-overtime victory. WSU used 19 points from Moore and a double-double from Marcus Capers against the Beavers to split the opening series.
Sixteen points and a buzzer-beater from Casto guided the Cougars to a 78-76 victory in Tucson against Arizona, but a stingy Sun Devil team kept the Cougars from sweeping their desert foes. Three Arizona State players reached double figures in scoring, while for the first time all season, no WSU player scored 10 points or more.
The Cougars returned home to face conference favorite California. In a battle of high-scoring point guards, Moore poured in a career-best 25 points in just 29 minutes of action. Eventual Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle outdid the freshman with 39 points and nine assists as he guided the Golden Bears past the upset-minded Cougars 93-88. WSU responded against Stanford, getting 27 points from Thompson and a 77-73 victory.
In Los Angeles, WSU clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit against USC for a 67-60 win as Moore and Thompson topped the 20-point plateau in the same game for the first time. Moore was at it again when the Cougars took on UCLA, but his 24 points were not enough to overcome 44 second-half points from the Bruins. The 74-62 loss meant WSU split each of its first four conference series.
The Cougars' conference record fell to 4-5 with a loss at Washington to round out the first half of the Pac-10 schedule. Koprivica and Thames led WSU to a four-point halftime lead, but the Husky offense exploded in the second half to the tune of 56 points. Koprivica recorded his first-career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but Washington took a 92-64 win.
Arizona State earned a sweep against the Cougars and ran WSU's losing streak to three when it came to Pullman to begin the second half of the season. Four players scored in double figures for each team as Thompson paced everybody with 20 points, but the Sun Devils' bench outscored the Cougars' 25-5 to lead ASU to an 81-70 victory. WSU bounced back with its most complete performance during Pac-10 play against Arizona. Casto's 19 points and 10 rebounds were both game highs as he led the Cougars to a 78-60 win, and a 36-24 rebounding advantage.
After the win against the Wildcats, WSU traveled to the Bay Area where the Cougars' youth began to catch up with them. Stanford used 18 second-half points from Jeremy Green, including the game-winning basket with four seconds left, to overcome a 15-point halftime deficit and drop the Cougars to 5-7 in the Pac-10. Thompson erupted for 23 points in the first half at California as WSU carved out a nine-point lead at intermission, but the Golden Bears' seniors combined for 41 points in the second half to run away with an 86-70 win.
WSU got back on track with an impressive defensive performance against USC. The Cougars held the Trojans to 47 points and scratched out a 51-47 win, despite Thompson failing to make a field goal for the first time in his career. Lodwick helped pick up the slack with 11 points, his career-high scoring output in a conference game. The turnaround did not last long, though.
The Cougars dropped their last five games, including the final game of the season, an 82-80 overtime loss to Oregon at the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles, to finish with a 16-15 overall record, 6-12 in conference play.
Thompson built on his award-filled freshman campaign with a selection to the All-Pac-10 First Team in 2010. He was twice named Pac-10 Player of the Week, and picked up the ESPN.com National Player of the Week for Nov. 23-29. Thompson became the 31st Cougar to reach the 1,000-point mark, and the third-fastest as he eclipsed the plateau March 10, at Oregon in his 63rd career game.
Joining Thompson with all-conference honors were Casto and Moore. Casto was named All-Pac-10 honorable mention and was picked to the All-Pac-10 All-Defensive Team. The sophomore from Spokane led the conference with 63 blocked shots. After just two seasons on the Palouse, Casto is sixth on the career blocked shots list.
Moore enjoyed one of the most productive freshman seasons in school history as the only starting freshman point guard in the conference. Moore ranks in the top three on eight freshman record lists, including points, assists, steals and free throws. His achievements were recognized with a selection to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team.
Koprivica ended his four-year run at WSU with his best statistical season, averaging 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Serbia native won 85 games during his time in Pullman, second most by a basketball student-athlete in school history.