Cougs Eye View: Husky Game Preview
(This UW/WSU Preview from the Cougar Point of View Courtesy of Heath Harshman)
This is a big one. Three games remain on the conference schedule for Wazzu to salvage a Pac-10 season that has gone awry since late January. WSU currently sits at ninth in the conference with a 6-9 record, four games back of leaders Cal.
Winning these last three games would put the Cougs at .500 in the conference and with a good head of steam heading into the conference tournament.
The first of those three games is likely the most important, a home visit from that other team in the state, UW. Washington is currently 8-7 in the conference, good enough for fourth place. The Huskies have gone 2-2 in their last four games, being almost as inconsistent as the Cougs.
Although UW has lost just two games at home all year, it’s their road form that has ruined them. Washington is just 1-5 on the road in conference play, getting their first road win February 13th against Stanford. WSU on the other hand has played pretty well at home, splitting every home series of conference play. They’re also coming off of an inspired and energized performance over USC at Beasley last Saturday. They’ll need to bring that focus again on Saturday if they want to send UW back home with a loss.
“I believe we have the ability to come out and be focused and play really well, play hard. But we haven’t proven we can do it consistently so I’m not sure where we will be”, said Coach Bone in his weekly press conference Tuesday.
In the earlier meeting between WSU and UW this season the Cougs let a four point halftime lead turn into a 28 point blowout loss. WSU was awful defensively, especially in the second half, as the Huskies shot 47.1% from the field and were led by senior Quincy Pondexter’s 29 points. UW also tallied 19 assists and just nine turnovers in the win.
WSU meanwhile struggled to hit their shots consistently, shooting just 32.3% for the game. The Cougs leading scorer Klay Thompson was also just 2-15 in the game, scoring just seven points.
Thompson, who recently announced he was coming back for his junior season, was 0-12 last Saturday in the win over USC and scored just 10 points in last week’s games against UCLA and USC. He’ll have to have a good game to counter the Huskies dynamic scoring duo of Pondexter and guard Isaiah Thomas.
“Just letting [Thompson] know that we’re going to continue to go to him, we think he’s a great shooter and don’t think twice. Just keep looking at the basket and if you can get a shot off go ahead and shoot it”, said Coach Bone when asked how he is handling Thompson after his poor performance.
Pondexter had his senior night in Seattle last Saturday in the team’s big win over UCLA. He scored 20 points and hasn’t been held under 17 points in over a month. Saturday is the Cougs last home game and their lone senior, Nikola Koprivica, will hope to have the same impact as his counterpart on his special night.
“Nik has meant a lot to us this year”, said Coach Bone, “He has provided some leadership and I think that comes with the fact that he’s been here a few years and he’s been a part of some really good teams here at Washington State.”
With one more win Koprivica will tie George Hamilton for the most wins as a Men’s Basketball player in WSU history at 86 wins.
WSU didn’t shoot the ball well in their win over USC, which gave them the season sweep over the Trojans, but it was their defense that keyed the victory. USC shot just 38% from the field and made just 2-14 three pointers. Coach Bone will have to keep that defensive mindset in the team if they want to play well and have a chance at a big win.
It’s definitely a winnable game for the Cougs, who have shown glimpses of absolute brilliance this year. Couple that with a big win over a good team Saturday and Washington’s road record this season and a Wazzu win seems more than just a possibility. But the solid team defense that shut down USC will need to continue and the team’s shooting touch, which disappeared last weekend as they shot under 40% in each game, will need to improve for WSU to be assured of a win against its cross-state rivals.
ASU beat writer Doug Haller feels UW deserves an NCAA at-large bid. I think it will take three straight wins on the road for the Dawgs and a good showing, probably two wins in the Pac-10 tourney.
Basically UW have to win 5 straight or at least 4 straight and a close one in the Pac-10 semis. Winning three straight in conference on the road would probably put them within one game of the title or tied, regardless to Pac-10 tourney seeding.
The loss to USC was huge as now UW loses the tie breakers, should UW end up tied for 1st, if USC is not below Stanford. UW needs to win out, hope Cal and ASU lose twice and root for Stanford to win and USC to lose.
The Bay Area schools travel to the desert for the last week of the regular season, while Cal travels to Stanford. Want some good news Dawg fans? Stanford plays there last three at home.
Former UW commit Enes Kanter has become a slim possibility at best for the Huskies. Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari took the time to see him on a recent west coast recruiting swing in between UK games.
The class of 2013 (this years high school freshmen) is looking to be a good one already for Washington. Former Seahawk Derrick Fenner’s kid D.J. Fenner is the best player in the Metro League as a freshman, according to a number of evaluators. On Wednesday Fenner put his team on his back in overtime and pulled out the win.
We are hearing that he is already getting sincere interest from the Huskies, but that everyone across the country is starting to come after him too.
Another 2013 UW recruit, center Maurice Kirby of Arizona is starting to get hit on by teams up and down the coast. He is currently six-foot-eight and 210 lbs., but still growing and according to an update in Rivals could make seven-feet. Kirby is currently being recruited by Pac-10 schools UW, WSU, USC, OSU and Arizona.
Pac-10 Round Up
Steve Megargee of Yahoo debates that even if Cal wins the Pac-10 title that they are not assured of an at-large bid unless they win the Pac-10 Tournament. He quotes Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com who makes the argument that the Pac-10 name is all they have to separate them from a Big West team.
“I don’t really see any [at-large] case for them at all. If their jersey said ‘Cal Poly,’ we wouldn’t even be talking about them. That’s how weak their profile is. They’re a Pac-10 team, so it’s newsworthy.”
That’s right Jerry. Going through the Pac-10 season and coming out on top of the league with its elite group of coaches and future NBA players up and down its rosters is superior to the Big West and you are now in my opinion very much uninformed beyond your numbers crunching.
Megargee also quotes Bear Head Coach Mike Montgomery, who disagrees with him about the Pac-10 and Cal senior guard Jerome Randle who values the Pac-10 title as an excellent opportunity to be a part of history.
“I want to leave with a bang and bring a Pac-10 title to Berkeley. It hasn’t been done in a long time, and I’m really making it my business to do the best I can to bring this to my school. It’s about time.”
Cal hasn’t won a conference title since 1960, before the Pac-10 and even the Pac-8.
Here’s the link:
UCLA’s front court is now down to just J’Mison Morgan, Nikola Dragovic and Tyler Honeycutt, as Reeves Nelson is out for the weekend and Brendan Lane has been sidelined with a sprained ankle. James Keefe is out for the year with shoulder problems and Drew Gordon transferred during fall quarter.