PULLLMAN — Whenever Isaac Bonton drained a 3-pointer or dished out an assist, NBA and Washington State great Klay Thompson was on his feet, cheering on the young point guard.
Thompson ended up spending a lot of time on his feet as Bonton scored a career-high 34 points and Washington State beat Oregon State 89-76 on Saturday in front of a packed house that saw Thompson’s jersey retired.
Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry was in attendance as his Golden State Warriors teammate and fellow “Splash Brother” had his No. 1 jersey hung for perpetuity in the rafters of an unusually raucous Beasley Coliseum.
“It was awesome for anyone,” Bonton said. “Having Steph Curry and Klay Thompson cheering you on, especially with what Klay means for Pullman and WSU. It was really special to have that environment and they just kept pushing for us. That’s awesome having two NBA superstars, Hall of Famers right at your side.”
Thompson was emotional during the halftime ceremony and active on the sidelines throughout the game, fist-pumping and firing up the 10,380 fans. Video tributes to Thompson by his former USA basketball coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, plus former Washington State and current Virginia coach Tony Bennett and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr were shown.
“Surpassed all my expectations,” Thompson said. “Just to see the city and the building. There is nothing like Coug love, I’ve come to realize. I meant that when I said I am traveling around the country and I hear ‘Go Cougs’ all the time. It’s a special kinship when someone says that to you. And I feel the energy tonight. I want to go out there and play so badly. But its OK to be a spectator. These young boys are really doing it.”
In three seasons as a starter at Washington State, Thompson played 98 games, averaging 17.9 points per contest. By the time he left after his junior season, he had scored 1,756 points (third in school history) and made what then was a school-record 242 3-pointers. He was the 11th overall pick by the Warriors in the 2011 NBA Draft.
“Each year I was in Pullman I had to grow,” Thompson said. “In my freshman year, I had so many great leaders on our team as far as veterans, you know, Daven (Harmeling), Taylor Rochestie was such a great team player, such a great point guard. When they left, I had to kind of step into that spotlight, that main go-to guy role. I took my lumps and had my slumps but those made me so much stronger.”
The arrival of the Splash Brothers in Pullman seemed not only to energize the crowd but also the players of Washington State (12-7, 3-3 Pac 12), who completed their first sweep over the Oregon schools since January 2011 and first home Pac-12 sweep since 2013.
“It was great. I knew it was going to be an emotional weekend with a lot of distractions but our guys really handled it well,” said Washington State coach Kyle Smith. “We barely practiced yesterday because when Klay showed up practice was basically over but our guys were really pumped, certainly wanting to please him. All the kind things he said about his experience here were great, great for recruiting. Great for everything.”
Bonton had his eighth straight double-digit scoring game, shooting 8 of 13 from the field, including four 3-pointers and went 14 of 14 from the free-throw line. He also had eight rebounds and eight assists.
“Tonight he just played spectacular,” CJ Elleby said about his teammate. “Whenever the ball was in his hands I just knew something special was going to happen. He was electric out there tonight. And the crowd and the energy in the building were amazing.”
Elleby’s 22-point and nine-rebound performance came two days after he scored 25 and had a career-best 14 rebounds against No. 8 Oregon. Noah Williams had 17 points for the Cougars, a season high for the freshman.
Oregon State (12-6, 2-4 Pac 12) dominated the Cougars inside, winning the battle in the paint 54-32, but gave up 29 fast-break points and couldn’t stop Elleby and Bonton from scoring.
Tres Tinkle had 22 points and Ethan Thompson scored 14 for the Beavers.
In a back-and-forth first half, Washington State went on a 9-0 run with 1:31 remaining to take a 46-40 lead at the break.
In the second, Washington State went on a 10-0 run with 7:33 remaining to take a 69-56 lead. Oregon State responded with a 7-0 run of their own to get within six but that was the closest they got.
“Tough one for us. We didn’t defend nearly as well as we needed to. Got to give them credit,” said Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle. “They took a lot of shots we wanted them to take and made them. But they never took their foot off the pedal. Eighty-nine points is obviously tough to overcome.”
Oregon State: The Beavers go 0-2 on the road against the Washington schools. The loss against the Cougars snaps the Beavers’ five-game winning streak in Pullman.
Washington State: The Cougars bested their win total from a season ago with a sweep of the Oregon schools. Washington State is 10-2 at home on the year including three wins in conference play.
The Beavers host UCLA on Thursday
The Cougars play at Colorado on Thursday