Washington St. wound up being the team with the most points on the scoreboard when the game finally officially was declared to have ended, with free throw shooting being the main reason, even though the Cougs missed 3 of 6 in the final minute.
Oregon St. made only 7 of 13 for the day, though.
"You make your free throws, maybe you win that game," Oregon St. coach Craig Robinson felt.
A close battle all day, a case can reasonably be made for practically anything that happened all afternoon being the event that made the difference, but if Washington's St.'s 14 of 18 shooting at the line wasn't the difference, Oregon St. being out-rebounded by 12, and getting only 5 on the offensive end, certainly was.
"We haven't been out-rebounded like that in a long time," Robinson said. "And it was solely on the offensive end. We can't have that."
Thanks to a endless series of bad calls, missed calls, make up calls, and game management problems, it was impossible to get a sense of what would happen next, and in games of such a nature, players that can find a niche to be successful in often make the difference, and Washington St. had 2 of them.
Mike Ladd, above, had 17 of Washington St.'s first 21 points, clearly carrying the Cougars, while the Beavers were thoroughly throttling Washington St.'s leading scorer, holding Brock Motum to just 4 first half points.
Ladd leveled off in the second half, though he still finished with a game high 23, and had a 42 point weekend in the Willamette Valley, but Motum, below, came alive, with 16 points after the break to carry the Cougars through the rest of the melee. Most of that came from the free throw line, where Motum was 7 of 8.
"What I saw was he got to the line," Robinson said of how Motum became a Beaver buster. "That's one way a player being well defended can deal with it."
One major contributing factor to that was Devon Collier setting much of the first half, after getting assessed 2 offensive fouls in open court.
"The first one was far enough away, I couldn't see it as well as most everyone else," Robinson said, "but the one at half court, I was really surprised at that call."
Robinson, below, would proceed from surprised to dismay, and then other emotions, as the game went on.
Robinson received a technical foul after a surreal sequence just past the mid-way mark of the second half.
Nelson had stolen the ball from Ladd, and was headed for a breakaway, only to be taken down on instructions from the Washington St. bench. With the ball still loose, Nelson dove for it, had Ladd dive on top of him, and then be assessed an offensive foul.
On the ensuing possession after a Royce Woolridge missed jumper, Collier came down with the rebound, and was hit in the back, with no call.
"It was a crazy foul on Roberto, and on the very next play, Devon gets pushed in the back, and they don't call it. I'd had enough," Robinson said.
If anything though, subsequent fouls that ended Eric Moreland's day early were even more egregious. Moreland not only picked up an offensive foul, above, it cost Oregon St. a basket and a free throw when he was undercut inside the semi-circle (again, under direction*), and ultimately was disqualified on a play where there was clearly a foul, but it was Collier that had the contact, while Moreland got all ball.
(* The aggressive tactics Washington St. employed were nothing they should be criticized for employing; this is "big-boy" ball, and the decision to not allow crowd energizing spectacular plays is a valid tactical option. It is the officials' responsibility to assess the prescribed penalties.)
It wasn't as though all the atrocities were to the Beavers' disadvantage, though, but Washington St. coach Ken Bone's dropping and shaking his head didn't draw the attention Robinson's animated response did. (Though it looked like Bone would explode when Moreland retrieved a loose ball on the Washington St. bench with 1 foot entirely out of bounds, and the Beavers still retained possession.)
And its debatable whether Oregon St. should have really got to count a transition basket that started with a defensive rebound corralled by a player with both feet not just out of bounds, but well into the middle of the "OREGON STATE" lettering on the floor under the basket.
Still, the Beavers had chances to pull the game out, as Collier, above, had 11 of his 14 points in the last 7 minutes of the game, and both Nelson and Starks scored in the final half minute. But after an inbound play that took over 6 seconds to execute, Starks had to foul, and Woolridge buried both free throws for the final lead, and Starks missed a 3 pointer to tie the game, badly off line to the left.
Even then, the game wasn't really over, though the majority of the crowd of 6,592 left the building when the officials allowed the clock to run out, even though the ball had gone out of bounds. After a considerable delay, the officials checked the monitor and realized the game shouldn't be over, and Washington St. had to inbound the ball.
Notably, the 5 second count does not (or is not supposed to) stop when the ball is thrown, and continues until a player touches the ball. With both teams out of time outs, the pressing Oregon St. defense pressured the inbounds pass, and after moving on the baseline (remember, the stoppage was after the ball went out of bounds, not a made shot),the ball was thrown well beyond the 3 point arc, and then bounced towards mid court. The 5 second count should have continued, and Oregon St. should have had an opportunity to inbound the ball, but with the ball bouncing away, one touch resulted in time expiring.
"I'll let others talk about the officiating," Robinson said, "because our conference frowns on coaches talking about it."
Starks, above, led the Beavers, with 17 points, and also had a game high 8 assists. Nelson joined Collier at the 14 point level, rounding out the players in double figures.
Motum had the only double double, with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Cougars' D.J. Shelton also grabbed 10 boards.
Moreland finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, and also got a blocked shot, increasing his career total to 115, and moving him into second place on the Oregon St. career list, past Steve Johnson, who was on hand to see it happen.
Oregon St. dropped to 11-9 for the season, while Washington St. improved to the same mark, but the Beavers are now 1-6 in conference, tied with Utah for last place, while the Cougars are 2-5, alone in 10th place.
Washington St. has now won 12 of the last 15 games against Oregon St.
Oregon St. ventures to the Bay Area this coming week, for games Thursday at California, and then (inexplicably) Sunday at California (yes, the Pac-12 has scheduled the Beavers and Cardinal against Super Bowl festivities.)
Washington St. will host Arizona St. and Arizona Thursday and Saturday.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)