Thanks, Cougs, for one heck of a season

In a season of overachievements -- in this magical season where the improbable continued to happen time and time again -- the Cougars came up one overachievement short on Saturday when Vanderbilt eliminated them from the NCAA Tournament.

Faced with chance after chance to win the game, all of the various role players who had stepped up repeatedly during the season couldn’t find one more miracle buried somewhere deep within.

Daven Harmeling? Missed a wide-open 3 at the end of regulation.

Taylor Rochestie? One-for-7 from the field, five turnovers. Game-winning shot blocked at the end of the first overtime. Go-ahead 3-pointer off the mark at the end of the second overtime.

Even Mr. Dependable, All-Pac-10 guard Kyle Weaver, wasn’t immune. At one point in the second overtime, he committed turnovers on two consecutive possessions before an ill-fated post-up resulted in a wild bank shot that never caught rim.

We had become so accustomed to expecting the improbable, that when the probable happened – when this collection of mostly mid-major talents with high-major hearts failed to deliver in the clutch – we could hardly believe our eyes.

But it is, indeed, over. And there will be no shortage of second-guessing on the part of Coug fans who have been along for this ride since it started taking off in December.

But you won’t find that here.

See, I’m the guy who refused to get depressed when the Seahawks got screwed out of the Super Bowl, instead choosing to focus on just how much fun I had on the ride. And that’s what I’ll remember about this season.

I’ll remember making the trek to Pullman for the first time in years to watch the Cougs play Washington. I’ll remember how Beasley Coliseum, packed to the rafters, rocked like it hasn’t in more than a decade as Weaver dropped a perfect pass to Ivory Clark for a thunderous dunk that signified a seismic shift in basketball bragging rights, if only for a season.

I’ll remember clicking refresh on my browser in an effort to get one of the few hundred tickets the Huskies made available to the public online for the rematch in Seattle a few weeks later. I’ll remember the euphoria of securing three seats to that game – a Cougar game! I’ll remember hearing scalpers offer me hundreds of dollars for my tickets – again, I remind you, to a Cougar game.

And I’ll remember being heartbroken, as this magical season that went way too fast slipped away.

“There are a lot of good things to take from this season,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said. “But I’m hurting right now; it stings. I can tell you for sure I won’t be looking at the tape of this game tonight. It was a turnaround year, though, and that was our goal at the beginning of the season. After the game in the locker room, I told the kids, ‘As much as this hurts, gentlemen, I’m proud of what we accomplished this season.’ ”

And I’m proud of how this team, so disciplined and workmanlike in its underdog approach – never taking its success for granted – represented everything that’s great about Washington State University, the school that I love, sometimes for better or worse.

Of course I’ll be tempted to look forward to next year, given that only Clark graduates, and reinforcements are on the way. But for the moment, I’m going to focus on how much joy this team brought me this year.

“After that game, our guys understand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” Bennett said. “In time, it will hurt less. … It stings right now, but what an experience this tournament has been. It was special to taste this (the NCAAs) and experience it. The experience is golden.”

Thank you to Tony and the rest of the Cougs for a golden experience I won’t ever forget.


Anonymous said...

I will remember being sick as a dog with a 100 degree fever, hacking up the most unhumanly fluids known to man, going to the game at Cal alone and sitting in the nosebleeds screaming my already ragged voice even more ragged in a Coug win.

I will remember going to Stanford just two days later and asking for my tickets at will-call: "Two tickets for Nusser," and having a guy behind me say, "Nusser? As in Jeff Nusser? I knew that guy. Great dude. Good writer." I will also remember being the only person in the entire arena screaming at the top of my lungs (still sick, voice still screwed) during every Stanford free throw and smiling at every old, white, crotchety, rich alum giving me the stink eye for it. ....then we lost in OT. But I couldn't talk for two days so I felt okay about it. A little.

What a season. What an improbable, inspiring, joy of a season.

Anonymous said...

Only stumbled upon your blog today, so this is obviously the first time I had a chance to read your take on the miracle season that was. Wonderful summation.

Like you, I was lucky enough to be in attendance at both games against the Huskies. As somebody who lived through the tail end of the Eastman era, and the entire Graham era, these were two game environments I NEVER imagined I would experience in games where the Cougs were involved.

Of course, seeing as I'm commenting a month and a half after your post, I'm more than willing to look forward to next season. I fully expect us to go further than we did this year, but NOTHING will ever top the feeling I got as a Coug hoops fan this year.

Nuss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nuss said...

You might never come back here, but ...

Mike Rose, do you know Kimball?