USC vs. Washington St.
Photo: Hans Gutknecht –The Daily news
What a great game to watch last night! We got a win when it mattered most. Gabe Pruitt was on Fire! He was hitting three's from everywhere it seemed. WSU, while getting close a couple of times and at one point for about a minute never really looked like they were in this game. Don't get me wrong they had their moments, Derrick Low is an absolutely scrappy, nasty player- nasty in a good way. Low was always on the move and hit some great shots under pressure; especially that double pump 3-pointer AFTER the ball was hit in his hands as the shot clock expired to cut SC's lead to 4 points, just insane.
Jumping out to an early lead is what SC always seems to do but tonight the big question was could they hold it. There have been time when SC just goes flat and lets the other team back into the game, the question was would that happen in this game. WSU just would not die; you just couldn't put them away, as Coach Floyd said at halftime. SC played like a bid to the Big Dance was on the line and they made it count like it mattered.
With all the 3-pointers I saw last night it looked like a bombing run at the Staples Center. SC made 8-of-12 3-point attempts in the first half alone. Pruitt, who was dialed in all night, hit one shot in the second half on the far side of the court, in front of the Trojan bench with Low coming on strong that really fired the crowd up. I thought he drew some contact there but it didn't matter, he was on target all night. With all the long-range shots I saw last night I hardly remember anyone driving to the basket though the tip in from Wilkinson with about a minute left put the game away as he made a great heads up play.
But lets give credit to WSU, they didn't quit, they went on a 9-2 run to end the first half that had SC by 4 points. Low drained a 3 at the buzzer and I had a bit of a sinking feeling, as it looked like SC was getting a little flat-footed on defense by not finishing the half out strong. It looked like the first game between thee two teams at the Galen Center earlier in the season with SC up 5 going into halftime so I was more than just a little worried. But SC dug in and made the plays when they had to. They got help from everyone last night and it paid off.
Back to Pruitt, he had a feeling during warm-ups that he was going to have a big night and he certainly delivered going 6-of-7 from outside the arc, 7-of-9 overall finishing with a game high 26 points. It seemed that every time he touched the ball that he an open look and drained the shot. Midway through the first half Pruitt also missed one 3-pointer but was fouled but hit all three of his free-throws so you know that he was going to have a special night. But you could tell that SC needed to mix it up or that well was going to run dry.
During Floyd's brief TV interview at the break he said something to the effect that SC was relying on the 3-pointers a little too much and when they came out in the second half they were more focused on getting the ball inside to Gibson. And that's just what they did, with all that Pruitt was doing it seemed like Gibson was the invisible man. He had 9 boards, 2 blocks scoring 15 points going 9-of-11 on free-throws. He really made the Cougars come to him. Nick young had a quiet night going 4-of-7 for 10 points with three fouls.
WSU always seems cool under the gun but tonight they just didn't have it. From Bolch in the LAT:
Combine that sleepy style with a bedtime start, and it's typically lights out for an opponent.
But USC might have been the one team in the Pacific 10 Conference that didn't need a wake-up call against Washington State, having suffered a pair of excruciating last-second losses to the Cougars during the regular season.
Providing an early jolt of energy with a flurry of three-pointers and then responding to every Washington State run, third-seeded USC finally knocked off the second-seeded Cougars, 70-61, in a Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament semifinal Friday night at Staples Center.
Lets hope that SC has a little something left over for tonight's championship game against the Ducks. They swept the season series and we have already seen that it is tough to beat a team three times in a row so the need to come out firing. Oregon dominated Cal but there is no question that the Bears win against UCLA took a lot out of them while the Ducks smacked around Arizona on Thursday they have had a bit of an easier run so tonight's game should be interesting.