Cougs drop the opener, Halliday named starter for Saturday…

Nov 17, 2011, 9:47 AM | Updated: 10:47 am

The Cougs were not unlike most teams in their first game of the season – sluggish and slow getting in to rhythm. Unfortunately, most teams don’t play a ranked rival on the road in their first game and have time to work out these issues. In their opening 89-81 loss against Gonzaga Monday night, it’s no surprise that Gonzaga jumped all over them early on. The good news is, this team battled back.

I love a tough basketball team.

Early on in a season, any team has a hard time finding themselves, and the Cougs may have it a bit harder then most – they are replacing two of their best players in Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto.

Behind the play of Brock Motum and his 17 points, the team came together and battled. Down by as much as 20 points in the second half, the Cougs didn’t give up. They showed they have a very impressive young squad with many offensive weapons after climbing back to a three-point deficit within the final two minutes of the game. The late surge was helped by freshman Davonte Lacy, who hit three key three-pointers late in the game and ended up with 11 points in 14 minutes.

In total, five Cougars finished in double-figures, with Reggie Moore notching 14 points, Faisal Aden adding 12 and Mike Ladd scoring 13.

This is a very good sign.

The Cougs were hit by a barrage of threes early on, and when they focused on their perimeter D, they were hit by a barrage of layups from Gonzaga’s talented front court. What happened next was important – they clamped down on defense.

WSU’s strength going forward will be their athleticism, which isn’t something you can say about WSU teams of the past. Once the rust shook off, this team played a pretty good stretch of basketball. Sure, they still lost, but the manner in which they battled makes me think that this young team will be a real handful come conference play.

Tonight they face Sacramento State at 7:05 pm and will hopefully have a chance to work out some obvious kinks. The Cougs have some tough games ahead against a difficult Portland squad, followed by Oklahoma to open the 76 Classic in Anaheim on November 24th.

My apologies to 0623, for some reason, the school did not provide the typical “hustle stats” that I would certainly have included. If I do find them or they are posted, I will certainly pass them along.

Back on the football side of things

Freshman Connor Halliday was named the starter for Saturday’s crucial game against the UUUtes. The only surprise in this announcement was that it took until Tuesday to make it. I would’ve thought Paul Wulff would crown Halliday as king moments after his record-breaking performance in the win over the Sun Devils.

Halliday will come in to the game with something that he’s yet to deal with at a collegiate level: Expectations. Right now, he’s being leaned on as the guy who is going to not only bring the Cougs back to a bowl game, but to save Paul Wulff’s job. You know, nothing big.

Fortunately, he’ll be in the comfortable confines of Martin Stadium, but unfortunately he’ll be facing a UUUte team that has come on strong of late, winning three in a row over OSU, Arizona and UCLA, respectively. The UUUte defense has been impressive as well, ranking No. 3 in the conference giving up 335.7 yards per game.

Offensively, the UUUtes are dead last in the conference, gaining only 307.3 yards per game and throwing for a mere 170 yards per game. The lack of passing offense has a lot to do with losing starting QB Jordan Wynn early in the season, but the rushing game has made up for it, averaging 169 yards per game in their last three contests.

The Cougs will have to be solid against the run, something that has been tough for them for most of the season.

This is another big one – win this and it sets up an Apple Cup with a bowl game on the line and the huskies are looking anything but unbeatable right now. Hopefully, the Cougs are 100 percent focused on the UUUtes as it will take a better game than they played against ASU to win it.

I’m not saying that UU is a better team than ASU right now, I’m just saying that ASU obviously didn’t come to play. The UUUtes, despite being bowl eligible, still feel they have a lot to prove after a slow conference start and they certainly won’t be surprised by the cold weather.

Let’s hope that Halliday can handle the expectations, that Wulff will continue to play aggressively on offense, and the D has their second-straight monster game. Do all that, and a fun Apple Cup week will lie ahead.

Go Cougs!



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