Cal (14-4, 5-) opened the game on a 6-0 run but the Cougs went on an 18-4 run of their own. The Bears then rained threes to take a 24-18 lead. But once again WSU counter-punched, using a 7-0 spurt to forge a 25-24 advantage. The Cougs 1-1-3 zone had Cal players glassy eyes at times but the key in that first half, Ken Bone said after the game, was tempo.
"We played at our speed, which we needed to do," said Bone.
But if WSU (8-10, 1-5) was in the driver's seat for the first 20 minutes, the entire second half saw the Cougs unable to locate the gas pedal, the brake or even the car itself.
"They came out and they punched us in the mouth and we never got up. That's hard to take and it's hard to see," said Bone.
Cal outscored Washington State 40-10 in the paint.
COUGAR SENIOR POST D.J. Shelton notched another double-double, his fourth of the season, with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He connected on 7-8 free throws.
"D.J. did a good job…really proud of the way he rebounded, and he scored well," said Bone.
Que Johnson led the way for the Cougs with 18 points. The outside shots weren't fouling so Johnson took it to the hoop more than usual. Especially early, it was a successful strategy. Johnson was 8-9 from the line for the game, shooting 4-14 from the field.
"He did a nice job of driving it… getting to score at the free throw line that way," said Bone of Johnson.
BUT A POROUS Washington State defense in the second half allowed for a lot of open looks and easy buckets for Cal.
"They were hard to keep in front of us… Our transition D was very poor," said Bone.
So was the Cougs' shooting in the second half, where would-be shooters seemed hesitant to pull the trigger. After shooting 40 percent in the first half, Washington State shot a desultory 27 percent from the floor after halftime.
THE COUGS return home next week to face the Oregon schools. To say Washington State is in need of a win or two against UO and OSU is like saying water is wet -- Bone implied post-game that the blowout losses are wearing on the players mentally.
"Hopefully we can stay together," said Bone, before quickly adding that he believes his team's character and work ethic will ensure just that.
YOU'D THINK THIS PICTURE OF COUGAR BACKUP James Hunter AT CAL ON SATURDAY PAINTS A THOUSAND WORDS ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF THE GAME. BUT THE SHOT WAS ACTUALLY TAKEN IN THE FIRST HALF WHEN THE COUGS PLAYED SCRAPPY BALL AND TRAILED BY ONE, 34-33, AT INTERMISSION.