Klay Thompson, Washington State quickly KO'd by Wichita State
In what may be his final college game, Klay Thompson got in early foul trouble and finished with only six points in a 75-44 NIT semifinal defeat to Wichita State on Tuesday.
Seattle Times staff columnist
NEW YORK — This season, the big stage has been home for Washington State's Klay Thompson. He has saved his best games for the most important games. Saved his biggest shots for the biggest moments.
He didn't merely rise to the occasion. Often, he rose above the occasion. The grander the game, the greater his game.
So there was no reason to believe Thompson wouldn't come into Madison Square Garden for Tuesday's semifinal NIT game against Wichita State and light it up.
This probably was going to be his last college basketball game, and considering the building and the moment, it was expected that Thompson would carry the Cougars on his talented shoulders.
He never got the chance.
"I didn't play that good, starting with my defense. It was terrible, picking up three fouls in the first half," Thompson said after the 75-44 shellacking from a very good Wichita State team. "And then I couldn't catch a rhythm after that. That's really stupid play on my part and it's tough ending the season like that, playing really dumb basketball on the defensive end."
This game was basketball's equivalent of a one-punch knockout.
Washington State missed its first six shots and didn't score in its first seven possessions.
"One minute rolled into the next and they (Shockers) showed they were the superior team tonight," Cougars coach Ken Bone said. "They literally manhandled us at times. ... I can't put my hands around it right now. We were just not very good."
It was over 3 ½ minutes into the game when Thompson picked up his second foul.
The Cougars' chances ended when Bone reinserted Thompson at 13:18 and saw his go-to player pick up his third foul on a charge with 10:20 left in the half and Wichita State ahead 14-4.
On this night, on this stage, Thompson, who is projected to go in the middle of the NBA draft's first round, played like he desperately needed another season in college.
The 6-foot-6 junior, who dropped 43 points on Washington in the Pac-10 men's quarterfinals, made only 1 of 10 shots from the field, missed all five three-point attempts and finished with six points and three assists in 25 unremarkable minutes.
"He got that third foul and he just wasn't able to be, I don't think, as aggressive," Bone said. "And I just think it took a lot out of him, and when it takes a lot out of him, I think it takes a lot out of us.
"That's not his fault. We just depend — I depend — on him probably too much because he's such a great player."
Thompson always is Bone's best option. He's the coach's ticket out of trouble. Without Thompson, Bone has very few offensive weapons — Faisal Aden outside and DeAngelo Casto inside.
The fact the Cougars were able to win 22 games this season is a tribute to Thompson's talent and Bone's ability to coach.
But this night was a disaster from the opening tip. An inescapable avalanche.
Washington State was outrebounded 52-25. The Cougars missed all 10 three-point attempts, shot 29.4 percent from the field and were outscored 48-18 in the paint.
It was the worst Cougars defeat since an 81-29 loss to Oklahoma State in Dec. 2004. It was reminiscent of last season's loss to Washington.
"We just played a really bad game," point guard Reggie Moore said.
Wichita State (28-8) was exactly the kind of team the Cougars have struggled against all season. The Shockers were like USC, big, physical and nasty.
They ripped rebounds away from the Cougars. They beat the Cougars to almost every loose ball. They posterized the Cougars with dunks.
Washington State couldn't run its offense, couldn't finish around the rim, couldn't hit from the outside and couldn't bang with the stronger Shockers.
"I thought we would play a lot better, but that's life. You have to deal with it," Thompson said. "You can't look back now. We played really bad ... It's even worse because it's on a big stage. It was for a tournament championship, or a chance at one. And, yeah, it really hurts. It's not a good feeling."
With 44 seconds left Thompson left the game, walked slowly to the end of the Cougars' bench, sat down and sadly rested his head on his arms.
So many times he has carried this team. But Tuesday night, in most likely his last college game, the burden looked too heavy.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
|WICHITA ST. (28-8)|
|WASHINGTON ST. (22-13)|
Attendance: NA. Officials: Ed Corbett, Joe Lindsay, Sean Corbin.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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