PULLMAN, WA -- The Eastern side of the state rivalry flame has been reignited.
Washington State versus Gonzaga.
The Cougars led the overall series record headed into tonight 18-8, but the Bulldogs bested them last year in Spokane by 18.
Riding high on their four game winning streak, WSU had nothing to fear on their home court - until a flurry of fouls and missed shots threw the starting five out of sync, and suddenly into a 64-56 loss.
Cougars’ Head Coach June Daugherty summed it up simply:
“Calls aren’t going to go our way, get used to it.”
It wasn’t turnovers. No, Washington State actually forced 26 over a mere Gonzaga’s 17. And it wasn’t fouls. Poor calls were made on both sides of the ball the entire night, so there was no safety net in either zone. An excessive foul totaling neutralized both teams.
“That’s the biggest learning aspects of this game,” said Carla Hailey, “not letting what the refs do, not letting our shots not go in dictate how we play the rest of the game.”
Washington State didn’t show up to their own party.
“It was a cluster of just bad shots, missed layups,” explained a frustrated Daugherty. “You’ve got to find a way to kind of erase it, and pull your boot straps up and say ‘you know what I got the next one, I got you teammate!’ We didn’t do that tonight.”
Although no conference foes, tonight’s rivalry energy fuels a fierceness into a team that died in the end of the fourth quarter when steam supply ran out. They managed to keep a tie ball game at halftime and through the third period, but then the storm broke.
“In the third and fourth I kind of let up and started backing up,” said Hailey. “And I think that dictated how they played offensively.”
The Cougars went from a 1-4 start of the season, to a four game victory sprint, to tonight’s mediocre plop in the dirt. They were just there. The starting five who had pulled out the same stunning past two double digit victories experienced living in their own shadows tonight, on their own home court.
They tried to slug along through the final quarter when the Bulldogs took off on a scoring frenzy, and Washington State experienced a shooting drought for minutes...and minutes...and minutes….
The best they can do is learn from it.
“Find a way to rally yourself and rally your teammates, and play Cougar basketball,” expressed Daugherty.
Next up for Washington State is a trip across the state line against Boise State on Monday Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. PST and Gonzaga is back in Spokane on Saturday, Dec. 9 against UNLV at 2 p.m. PST.