So this was the state of Washington’s Wednesday night in the Bay Area: A combined loss of 58 points, as Washington tumbled to Cal, 82-56, while WSU was waxed at Stanford, 80-48.
I come away with a primary thought on each game:
– While it’s true that Cal bothered Washington defensively and its bigs had a clear edge, I think the real takeaway from the night is how the Bears broke down a Husky team that had found some defensive identity since the opening of Pac-12 play. Cal was aggressive off the dribble, particularly with point guard Justin Cobbs, and repeatedly found good shots, often layups, against a UW defense that has been controlling the gaps.
The numbers say it all: Cal shot 55 percent. Here’s what Washington had given up in its first four Pac-12 games: Arizona State, 38.6 percent; Arizona, 42.1; Utah, 41.5; Colorado, 34.5.
Those are very good numbers, but the Huskies did an about-face in Berkeley. Since this Washington team isn’t likely to be great offensively because of its limited inside game, it absolutely must do a superior job defensively. No doubt Stanford’s Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown will try to be in attack mode Saturday night.
– We all know that Washington State is under-talented. And if we’re being honest about a decision Ken Bone made in the last four minutes of the first half at Stanford, it wouldn’t have been one that could have stolen a victory from the Cardinal.
But I didn’t like the move to get Que Johnson out of the game with two fouls at the final TV timeout of the first half, especially as WSU went on to execute in his absence.
Belying the final score, the Cougars played Stanford tough for the first 15 minutes of that game. And Johnson was a big part of it, scoring 15 points and going 6 of 7 from the floor as WSU took a 24-20 lead.
Then Johnson got foul No. 2 with 3:57 left in the half and exited, at which point it was 27-all.
By the time intermission arrived, it was 40-29 Stanford, and the Cardinal proceeded to run away and hide in the second half. Before and after halftime, Stanford had a ridiculous 46-13 run, so it makes any discussion of the move with Johnson all but academic.
Still, I don’t think Johnson’s removal made much sense. First, he was clearly the hot hand for the Cougars, and with any hot hand, why not let it play out, even with two fouls? This is not a team with multiple offensive options, especially with DaVonte Lacy on the sidelines and injured. Once you’ve sat him down, it’s a guess as to what he contributes, and Johnson had a quiet six points in the second half.
In tandem with Johnson’s removal, the Cougars put up some hurried shots late in the half, seemingly oblivious to the idea of milking time and minimizing damage.
Bigger picture, the sit-down of Johnson represents a conservative, by-the-book move, and it seems to me if you’re Bone, you can’t be making conservative decisions with this team. The talent simply isn’t there. Go for broke, and just maybe Johnson stays incredibly hot and you have a shot down the stretch.