Washington State nudged Northwestern 69-66 in overtime Wednesday night to reach the final four in the National Invitation Tournament.
PULLMAN — To steal a phrase from the Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it’s been.
And it’s not yet done, assuming Washington State can avoid yet another campus calamity between now and its appointment at New York’s Madison Square Garden next week.
When it was over here Wednesday night — a wild, 69-66 overtime victory over Northwestern — the WSU band was striking up “New York, New York,” and the crowd was chanting “One more year” in the direction of Klay Thompson. And to the fans’ delight, Thompson, exhausted on a seat on the WSU bench in front of TV cameras, returned a “No. 1 finger” to the students.
Alas, WSU fans, Thompson indicated later he wasn’t making any grand statement about his plans next year. He said he’ll decide later whether to return.
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But this year is this year, and with these Cougars (22-12), everything is a one-day-at-a-time proposition, even the roster.
As of Wednesday morning, it didn’t include DeAngelo Casto, the junior center, courtesy of his citation for marijuana in the early hours Tuesday. By late Wednesday afternoon, Casto had risen from the ashes, reinstated by WSU as an apparent result of some questionable procedural work by the Pullman police.
“I see why he’s playing,” said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody dryly, after Casto contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and assorted other baubles for the Cougars.
It was WSU’s third bust for marijuana this year, which probably won’t be in the game notes when the Cougars board a flight for New York Saturday. They play Wichita State Tuesday night in the National Invitation Tournament semis.
“We just want to go to New York City so bad and end the season on a win,” said Thompson. “It’s really special for Washington State that we put the program in a good position.”
Some 5,905 made more than their share of noise at Friel Court. Given the squirrelly context of this WSU season, it probably would be sketchy to note that the joint was jumping.
The Cougars took a 14-point first-half lead, 31-17, but Northwestern (20-14) inevitably gets good shots out of its Princeton offense, and down 14, it scored on 10 straight possessions extending to the second half to tie it at 38. It stayed hairy down the stretch, the Cougars piecing together a four-point lead inside three minutes but unable to hold it.
Northwestern’s John Shurna had his layup attempt goal-tended by Casto with 4.2 seconds left to tie at 64, and Reggie Moore rushed the ball up the floor for WSU, found Abe Lodwick underneath, and the Wildcats hammered Lodwick as the clock showed all zeros.
Officials checked monitors and confirmed that the foul occurred with 0.2 seconds left. Lodwick then proceeded to clank both free throws and a game that should have ended there went to overtime.
“I thought Reggie (Moore) did a good job of saying, ‘We’re going to get this done,’ ” said WSU coach Ken Bone. “And I think DeAngelo was tapping Abe on the leg, saying, ‘Hey, we’re good.’ “
They were, but tenuously.
Thompson’s pull-up jumper was answered by Northwestern’s only bucket of the period with 1:48 left. Thompson hit two free throws with 1:10 left, the eventual deciders, but the wild night was far from over.
With half a minute left, Moore lost the ball in backcourt in a scrum with Northwestern’s Alex Marcotullio. But Marcotullio knocked it out of bounds, WSU retained possession and Moore hit a free throw with 19 seconds left to make it 69-66. Northwestern’s 37th and 38th attempted treys of the night (it hit 10) went begging, and finally, it was over.
Afterward, Casto shrugged off the week’s extracurriculars, saying he was revved up for the game not because he was reinstated, but because “it’s the last game on the home court this year. You lose, you go home, and a win, you go to New York.”
The destination seems incongruous in this on-again, off-again season, but the Cougars took advantage of their three straight postseason home games and made it work. “I think this is a big deal for the university,” said a satisfied Bone. “We’re going to go back there and make the most of it.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentages: FG .375, FT .800. Three-point goals: 10-38, .263 (Marcotullio 3-7, Thompson 3-12, Crawford 2-8, Shurna 2-10, Cobb 0-1). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 5 (Mirkovic 2, Shurna 2, Crawford). Turnovers: 11 (Thompson 3, Mirkovic 3, Marcotullio 2, Shurna 2, Crawford). Steals: 4 (Thompson 2, Shurna, Capocci). Technical fouls: Bench.
|WASHINGTON ST. (22-12)|
Percentages: FG .417, FT .682. Three-point goals: 4-17, .235 (Lodwick 1-1, Moore 1-2, Motum 1-3, Aden 1-5, Casto 0-1, Thompson 0-5). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 6 (Capers 3, Casto 2, Thompson). Turnovers: 8 (Moore 3, Lodwick 2, Thompson, Aden, Motum). Steals: 6 (Casto 2, Aden 2, Moore, Thompson). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 5,905. Officials: Eric Curry, Kelly Self, Dick Cartmell.