Washington State’s Klay Thompson was referring to the win, but he might as well have been labeling his dagger shot to put away No. 15 Baylor, too.
The junior guard nailed a 25-foot 3-pointer from straight away with a minute left to topple the Bears, 77-71, yesterday in a scintillating semifinal of the 2010 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
WSU (10-1) shot 57.1 percent and controlled the game for about 26 minutes. Baylor (8-2) stormed all the way back from a 20-point deficit behind senior guard LaceDarius Dunn, who pumped in 25 of his 29 points in the second half.
The biggest of Thompson’s five 3-pointers (in six attempts) came immediately after Dunn nailed one to pull Baylor, an Elite Eight team last season, to within 68-67 with 1:37 to play.
It was a statement shot — and game — for the Cougars, whose top player and coach agreed last year’s WSU team might have folded against such an onslaught.
"Hopefully we get some notoriety for this win," said Thompson, who overcame foul trouble for 20 points on just eight shots. "We still got one more."
WSU takes on Butler for the DHC championship at the Sheriff tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. The game will be on ESPN2.
At halftime, WSU coach Ken Bone had a feeling the Bears would mount a comeback. He just hoped his team had the fortitude to hold it off. It did, barely.
"I was looking for (WSU and ‘Iolani alum) Derrick Low somewhere, I thought for sure we could get him in there and sneak him in," Bone said. "But I didn’t see him out there, so we went with what we’ve got."
That turned out to be plenty good. The Cougars, receiving only a handful of votes in the polls, ultimately showed the kind of poise that might make them a contender to win the Pac-10 Conference.
WSU packed in a 2-3 zone and denied the lengthy, athletic Bears room to work inside. Baylor’s outside shots were largely contested — they shot just 36.7 percent — but the Bears missed open looks, too, clanking their first 16 3-point shots. That included 11 by Dunn.
It was still anything but a done deal. During the comeback stretch — made possible on the defensive end by an effective return to man-to-man — the guard scored 20 of his team’s 27 points and put the Bears up 64-61 with 6:36 left. BU’s career No. 2 scorer hit all manner of fadeaways and difficult, hanging jumpers.
"The second half I came out and kept shooting, Coach (Scott Drew) said, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting, eventually they’ll fall,’ " said Dunn, who went 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Thompson answered with the go-ahead trey with 4:30 left, a precursor to his gutsy, final-word shot from NBA range. Several hundred Cougars fans stood and saluted his heroics, as did Dunn and Drew afterward.
"Hat’s off to Thompson," Dunn said. "Great players make great plays and that’s what he did."
"Guarded or unguarded that’s hard to do," said Drew, who credited his team for its heart in coming back. "You have to give them credit for making shots."
The balanced Cougars won for the fifth straight time since falling to No. 5 Kansas State on Dec. 3. WSU was outrebounded by 14, but its bigs, though not flashy, finished inside and were essential in five players reaching double-figure scoring.
Faisal Aden had 13 points and Reggie Moore, Brock Motum and DeAngelo Casto added 12 apiece.
Forward Quincy Acy had 16 points and 12 boards for Baylor.
Butler 67, Florida State 64
After squandering a double-digit lead, the Bulldogs (8-4) rode a 20-6 surge in the second half to earn a spot in the championship game against Washington State.
Butler hit six of its 10 3-pointers in the second half, four coming in the decisive stretch, and held off a Seminoles rally in the final minutes.
Forward Matt Howard led Butler with 19 points and nine rebounds. Guard Shelvin Mack went 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the second half and finished with 17 points.
Florida State forward Chris Singleton hit six 3-pointers and led the Seminoles (10-3) with a game-high 28 points with nine rebounds.
Mississippi State 69, San Diego 52
Renardo Sidney came off the bench for 19 points and six rebounds in only 19 minutes to lead the Bulldogs (8-4) past the Toreros (2-10) in the first consolation semifinal.
Ravern Johnson added 18 for Mississippi State and Kodi Augustus had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
No one scored in double figures for San Diego.