March 5, 2010
CORVALLIS, Ore. - For the first time in four games Washington State shot better than 45 percent from the field in a half, but it was not enough to overcome 15 first-half turnovers as Oregon State held on for a 59-55 win Thursday night in Corvallis.
Klay Thompson led a second-half surge by the Cougars in which they shot 11-of-24 from the floor for 45.8 percent, their best performance in a half since shooting 17-for-26 in the first half Feb. 13, at California. Thompson scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, including 11 during a 24-5 run that saw WSU close to within one at 40-39.
"In the first half I thought I was way too passive only shooting one shot, and that was a takeaway layup," Thompson said. "I'm not trying to be selfish, but that's just me not being aggressive. I thought I was standing around too much."
Thompson, whose scoring average dropped below 20 points for the first time all season, came into the game making just six of his last 42 shots, including 3-of-19 from 3-point range. In the second half against OSU he shot 6-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc to give the Cougars life.
"In the second half I thought I was looking for my shot more," Thompson said. "I can't lose confidence, because that's the worst thing you can do for yourself."
The sophomore from Ladera Ranch, Calif. also led WSU with eight rebounds.
WSU broke out for 23 points in the less than six and a half minutes to whittle the OSU lead down to two. The Cougars had four possessions to tie or take the lead, but could only muster one DeAngelo Casto free throw.
After the fourth potentially game-changing possession by WSU resulted in a blocked shot, Lathen Wallace knocked down a straight-away 3-pointer to push OSU's lead back to four and give end a seven-minute field goal drought for the home team.
Then the turnovers started again. After nearly erasing an 18-point Oregon State halftime lead that was fueled by 15 WSU turnovers, the Trailing by just four with less than 10 minutes to play, the Cougars turned the ball over on their next three possessions and allowed OSU to stretch the lead back to eight.
"A number of those turnovers, also, led to easy baskets for Oregon State." WSU Head Coach Ken Bone said. "So it wasn't just the turnovers, it was an easy layup or dunk on the other end. That hurts."
Jared Cunningham scored a career-high 20 points to lead all scorers including two free throws with less than two seconds remaining to ice the game for the Beavers. Cunningham also was a menace to the Cougars on the defensive end with a career-best eight steals.
Before his clenching shots, the Cougars sent Cunningham to the free throw line with 27 seconds left and the Beavers ahead by one, 55-54. The freshman missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, but the rebound bounced out beyond the 3-point arc where Seth Tarver secured it for OSU. Tarver was fouled and converted both free throws to give the Beavers a three-point lead.
"We definitely did not have a friendly bounce," Cougar senior Nikola Koprivica said. "That thing bounced way back to the three-point line, but that's not an excuse. We have to be all in, and everybody has to be ready for it."
WSU was not getting the bounces on the offensive end in the first half. The Cougars set season lows for field goals made (four) and points (15) in a half during the first 20 minutes. The 15 points for WSU matches the fewest allowed by OSU in any half this season.
The Cougars responded with 40 points in the second half, the most the Beavers have surrendered after intermission in conference play.
"I'm anxious to see," Bone said. "Can we put 40 minutes together? Because when we do we're pretty good."
The Cougars return to action Saturday to take on Oregon at 5 p.m. in Eugene. Both teams carry identical 6-11 conference marks into the game, and there is a lot riding on the outcome. With a win, WSU can still earn the No. 7 seed in the Pac-10 Tournament next week in Los Angeles. If Stanford loses to California Saturday, and the Cougars defeat the Ducks, WSU will be the No. 7 seed and avoid playing Wednesday in the opening round game.