Not to be too dramatic, but it’s quite possible the tone of the season hung on Garrett Stutz’s shot. If he misses, and the Shockers lose then it’s likely the non-conference portion of the schedule is remembered for blowing a 17-point lead against LSU and a nine-point lead against UConn in Maui.
Stutz makes the shot. Everybody celebrates. The Shockers are 8-2 with a game against Tulsa on Tuesday and a BracketBusters game at home remaining in the non-conference. Sure, the LSU game was too close. Sure, the Shockers missed chance after chance to rebuild their lead in the second half. Sure, LSU is not likely to be a top-100 RPI victory. Those are negatives. Most important, WSU won and its non-conference performance continues to look solid. Both losses are away from home against top-10 RPI teams. WSU has played three BCS opponents – none at home – and won two.
I give LSU’s athletic ability, and better effort, credit for slowing WSU’s offense in the second half. The Tigers also scored better in the second half, which kept WSU from running to get easy baskets. J.T. Durley’s fouls hurt, because he is WSU’s best bet to score or get fouled in the lane. He played 11 second-half minutes and took three shots.Some moments when WSU had a chance to build its lead the Tigers in the second half: WSU up 47-42 and gave up an offensive rebound for a score. Up 55-48 when Durley missed a three. Gabe Blair missed the front end of a one-and-one. Up 57-49, Toure Murry lost the ball after rebounding an LSU miss. Up 59-53, Murry missed a shot and Stutz walked – a call that all the Shockers immediately disputed. It appeared Stutz got knocked over.Coach Gregg Marshall was thrilled to see Stutz score 12 points, including the game-winner. It’s been a tough season for Stutz, but he is playing more effectively lately. In the past three games, Stutz is 10 of 13 from the field and averaging 8.7 points.Joe Ragland played 19 minutes and scored six points. He scored both his baskets on drives, which is an asset coaches think he can bring more regularly.Toure Murry didn’t shoot well, but contributed by getting to the line and making 7 of 8 free throws. He also had five turnovers, which is too many. While he has fine moments at point guard, he needs to eliminate those two or three bad possessions a game.