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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 19, 2012 at 11:23 PM

Stone-cold observations from the Palouse . . .

Some iced-over thoughts from the Palouse, where I witnessed Washington State’s surprise 81-69 victory over Stanford:

From the Washington perspective, people have speculated that the Huskies caught a break in not having to make the Bay Area trip this year because of the unbalanced schedule.

As it’s unfolding, that could actually be a hindrance to an NCAA-tournament bid. After the Huskies fell to Cal, 69-66, they ceded control of the Pac-12 race to the Bears, and what may happen is, Washington will need an opportunity to make a statement about its value to the tournament. In a tepid league without any real cred nationally, it will be hard to do that without some solid road victories, and the absence of the Cal-Stanford trip from their schedule won’t help.

So now, Stanford becomes a must-win for the Huskies if they’re going to stay in the regular-season race. I thought the Cardinal looked like a team that could get most of the shots it wanted – but it also gave up just about what WSU seemed to want. Faisal Aden, of course, riddled Stanford for 33 points, almost all of it on drives and mid-range jumpers. I would think players like Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy would have some similar opportunities.

Offensive, Stanford seemed a bit too three-happy, notwithstanding the fact the Cardinal is No. 2 in the Pac-12 in three shooting at .387. Stanford hoisted 33 threes (making only eight), compared to 26 tries inside the arc.

Stanford spaces the floor well and it has a lot of people who can hurt you from deep. But on this night, Aaron Bright was only 2 of 12 from the floor, and I thought Dwight Powell, who fouled out with five points in 13 minutes, was a bit out of control and clearly not on his game (which has been the case much of the season).

Some comments from WSU coach Ken Bone:

“They really have some great shooters, and (Josh) Owens is a beast down low. Obviously, we couldn’t stop him; he was 8 for 8 from the field.”

(On WSU’s turnaround from a 13-point deficit early in the second half) “What was probably most critical for us, we took care of the ball. We gave ourselves a chance to get a shot almost every possession. Early in the year, that was a huge concern. To have seven turnovers is pretty impressive.”

(On Aden’s career-high explosion) “That’s what we saw when we recruited him, a kid who can really light it up and score.”

“I’m really proud of our guys. It’s hard to get beat by our rival Washington, and now we’re 1-4 in the league, and two of the top teams in the league coming in, in Stanford and Cal. There’s a chance that all of a sudden to feel like you’re not confident enough to beat teams. When push came to shove, for 15 minutes (the final 15) I thought we really competed. Their character is really good. Teams that have good character have a chance to win a game like this.”

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