Pac-12 Wednesday Night Round-Up: Colorado and Washington Squeak ByPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 9th, 2014
Colorado 71, Washington State 70 (OT)
After last weekend where the Cougars looked anemic offensively and the Buffaloes looked every bit like their RTC #17 ranking, the expectation was certainly that this wouldn’t be a game much worth keeping an eye on. Add in the fact that at opening tip, Washington State’s “crowd” in their game in Spokane could be counted by hand and there was little reason to suspect that the Cougars had a chance. Forty-five minutes later, the Buffaloes were limping out of Spokane Arena with a much tougher win than anyone should have expected. While Washington State was shorthanded without junior gurd DaVonte Lacy, Colorado was also playing without their veteran point guard, Spencer Dinwiddie. Huh? What’s that? He played, you say? He played 38 minutes? Well, what do you know? The box score backs up such an assertion, although the film may test that story.
In fact, Dinwiddie did play, took five shots from the field (all after the halftime break), scored six points and added a variety of other plays here and there, but was largely absent, an occurrence that likely would have cost his team a game had the opponent been just about any other conference team other than a short-handed WSU team. Backcourt partner Askia Booker was very active, conversely, but made most of his impact from the free-throw line, scoring 13 of his 18 points from the charity stripe while going just two-of-12 from the field. For what it’s worth, Booker’s free throw contributions summed up the game for Colorado, as they enjoyed a whopping 38-3 advantage in free throw attempts in the game. Still, Tad Boyle wound up needing Josh Scott to go nuts late in order to come away with the tough win; the sophomore big man had eight points (on four-of-four shooting), four boards (two on the offensive end) and a blocked shot in the final two minutes of regulation plus the overtime period.
As for the Cougars, they got a career night out of Dexter Kernich-Drew, who had 24 points (on just 12 field goal attempts) and used the screen and roll to great effect on the offensive end throughout the night, but needed late-game heroics by freshman Que Johnson to force overtime. After a good start to the game (he opened scoring with a three), Johnson was largely invisible until his popped in a three over the undersized Xavier Talton with ten seconds left to force overtime. Ken Bone is going to need to make getting Johnson more involved in the offense more of a priority, especially with Lacy out with his most recent injury.
Lastly, Washington State makes a habit of giving up games in Pullman to play elsewhere in the state, such as Seattle or Kennewick (huh?) or, like tonight, Spokane. Sure, with spring semester not beginning until next week, the crowd in Pullman may be sparse. But could it really be any more sparse than the attendance in Spokane on Wednesday? That crowd looked like the crowd you see at one of those Thanksgiving tournaments in like Puerto Rico or Charleston or Anaheim. And not even the crowd for the championship game, but more like the crowd for the 11am seventh-place game. This amounts to basically giving up a home conference game. Why? For godsakes, why? Understood, Pullman is not exactly the finest sports town on the planet, but if we’re supposed to believe that a home crowd (as opposed to what was essentially barely more than a neutral-court environment) is good for at least a point or two of an advantage, then we could say that maybe, just maybe, the Cougars gave away a win tonight over a top 20 team because they were playing in front of a couple hundred people in Spokane instead of on their home court in Pullman.
Washington 59, Utah 57
While a top 25 team getting pushed to OT by one of the worst teams in their conference is always going to be a bigger story than a pair of unranked teams going at it, this was probably the more interesting game coming into the night. And it did not disappoint as it too went down to the final second. Delon Wright, who played every minute tonight, got forced into a bad shot at the buzzer and the Huskies escaped with a home win over a solid Utah squad. We’ll get to the victors in a second, but at this point I feel like I’m one of the few beating the drum for Wright, so let’s again dig into his performance tonight. Putting aside that attempt at the buzzer, Wright went for a career high 27, grabbed 11 boards, notched three steals and blocked a shot. The only thing he didn’t do much of tonight was hand out assists, mostly because his teammates weren’t making any shots. Wright went 10-for-17 from the field while the rest of the Ute starters combined to shoot just seven-for-27 from the field and oh-fer-eight from three.
As for the Huskies, forgive us if we need to see more from them before we really start to believe in them, but… there are some nice enough pieces here and you could imagine this team being a tough out. They’ve got the big-time, alpha-scorer, pro-prospect in C.J. Wilcox, who is capable of heating up and keeping his team in the game at any time with ridiculous jumpers (witness his four threes in an otherwise relatively quiet night). They’ve got the stud freshman point guard who is going to be much better come February and March than he was in November and December. While they’ve been severely shorthanded up front, the makings of a solid three-man rotation (Perris Blackwell, Shawn Kemp and Desmond Simmons) are beginning to take form. And then there’s competent secondary scorer Andrew Andrews and a pair of athletic wings in Mike Anderson and Darin Johnson. The squad ain’t littered with future pros, but contrary to what this team looked like in the non-conference schedule, they should be a tough out on most nights.