About Last Night: Cougs keep good vibes rolling, beat Stanford

Total dominance at the rim fuels 89-75 victory.

Before we get going on this morning’s celebration, a quick programming note: Craig and I are going to be in Pullman this weekend attending the women’s basketball games. If you also are in Pullman and you want to hang, we’ll be at The Coug to watch the men’s game on Saturday at 2 p.m. We’d love for you to stop by and say hi!


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If there was any concern that there would be a hangover from beating Arizona on Saturday, the Washington State Cougars put those fears to rest nearly immediately, more or less cruising to a relatively easy 89-75 victory over the Stanford Cardinal.

The Cougs were so good out of the gate that they held the Cardinal scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the game. They didn’t open up much of a lead, thanks to missing way more shots at the rim than normal, but the fact that they were getting all those shots in the paint proved to be the salient point: WSU never stopped getting those looks, the looks started to fall in a manner which we are accustomed to, and the Cougs eventually built a 16-point lead with just over four minutes to go in the first half.

The lead would reach as high as 19 points in the second half and only drop below double digits once the rest of the way — to nine points with 2:29 to play. It felt just a tiny bit uncomfortable, but WSU immediately responded with a 7-0 run to push it back to 16 with less than a minute to go.

The Cougs improved to 13-5 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-12 — and, most importantly, took another step forward in their push to the NCAA tournament.

TourneyCast Check In

via barttorvik.com

In A Minute

  • CougCenter recap

  • Stats

  • Line o’ the night: Myles Rice scored 35 points on 15-of-24 shooting — including 5-of-10 from 3. Oh, and he also added 8 assists. He pretty much did whatever he wanted for the duration of the game.

  • Line o’ the night (2): Isaac Jones — 24 points, 5 rebounds.

  • One stat to tell the tale: WSU scored 58 of its 79 points — 65% of its total — in the paint. The vast majority of those were directly at the rim.


Three Thoughts

1. Bully Ball

Early in the year, we were so hyped about the offense. The Cougs were using their exceptional size to bully teams into submission, which was very fun and new for a Kyle Smith team at WSU. But there was a nagging question: Could they do it against bigger opponents? The struggles against Mississippi State indicated it might be a problem.

For a while, it was. But the Cougs have found their footing in that regard over the past four games: Against Oregon, USC, Arizona, and Stanford, WSU has taken 69% of its shots from inside the arc and made 57% of them. That’s a really good recipe for offensive success, and while that’s largely due to Isaac Jones, lots of other guys are getting in the action. In fact, I’d argue that it’s because other people are getting in that action that Jones is finding space to operate with regularity.

You know how it feels when you’re watching football and the other team lines up on offense and just runs it down your throat, play after play? This is becoming that. It’s the kind of physical domination that WSU is rarely able to pull off against peer programs, and it’s pretty much happened four games in a row.

There’s another element to last night’s that I think is worth noting: Not only was the offense effective, but it also was extremely fluid and free moving. As much as I love Smith, there’s no denying that his offenses have often been been painful to watch. Last night, though, the decisions were quick, and crisp, and Stanford just seemed wholly unprepared for that kind of assertive confidence. It was a gorgeous game to watch from a pure entertainment perspective, as 89 total points would suggest.

This offense is going to scare some people going forward.

2. Marvelous Myles

There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe Rice’s game last night, so I’ll just not even try and just say that if you didn’t watch the game, watch the highlights and you’ll get the gist. Rice was a cold-blooded killer and clearly the best player on the floor.

Rice’s offensive rating in Pac-12 play — a metric that more or less translates to “points created per 100 possessions” — is up to 109, and he’s doing it while using the most possessions on the team (26%) and also playing the most minutes (84%). He’s absolutely playing at an all-conference level.

Which is why I’m starting to get just a little bit annoyed by the constant focus on his return from cancer. Yes, it’s an incredible story (I have a child who is a cancer survivor, so I get it), and, yes, there is a new audience for each of these games that hasn’t probably heard the story yet. But damn … can we maybe just focus a bit more on how really fucking good Myles is, independent of his medical challenges?

Please and thank you, Pac-12 Network.

3. God I love Bill Walton

I know that Bill isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I think two things are not in dispute: 1) He really loves the Pac-12 as an entity, and 2) He thinks sports should be fun.

I can’t say I love the Pac-12 the way he does, but I can say that I’m of the opinion that sports should be fun, and that’s why my favorite announcers are the ones who treat sports with the exact level of seriousness they should be treated with — that is to say, very little. This is entertainment, and I want to have fun.

(Side note: This is why I want replay banned. It doesn’t get stuff right nearly often enough and it takes away from my enjoyment as a spectator. Moving on!)

Walton and his partner, Ted Robinson, going off on a five-minute discussion about the most important games in college basketball history while ignoring everything that was happening on the floor — including a SportsCenter Top 10 block by Kymany Houinsou in transition — was absolute gold. I don’t typically care for Ted, but he’s a lot of fun (there’s that word again) with Walton. I’m sad they’re going away and I hope last night wasn’t the last time they call a WSU game.

Up Next

The Cougs finish up in the Bay Area on Saturday at Cal. Like the Cardinal, the Golden Bears aren’t good, and kenpom gives WSU a 60%ish chance to win the game. Those are good odds for a Pac-12 road game.

That said, the Bears aren’t the pushover that their No. 126 rating on kenpom would suggest. They beat Colorado at home and have lost a bunch of close games — including on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by UW last night. They are dangerous.

Tip off is at 2 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.

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