WSU Beats Portland State in Kennewick 93-69

Dec 20, 2009, 5:01 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

When the preseason predictions started rolling in and a handful of writers, including Rivals and myself, picked the Cougs over Arizona, the message boards were poppin’. WSU has a new coach, a couple of sophomores that are now their top players and a bunch of news guys to replace a solid core of departed seniors. To be honest, it has been my opinion that other than one of those sophomores (DeAngelo Casto) there is a big hole at the other post spot which could turn out to be an Achilles Heel in Pac-10 play.

Nikola Koprivica went a long way to counter that concern last night as he and Klay Thompson scored 23 points a piece to co-lead all scorers and Washington State romped all over Portland State in Kennewick WA 93-69. I felt that this game could be a tough one for the Cougs, as I also thought that the Huskies match-up with PSU’s cross town rival the Portland Pilots could be, but so did both Ken Bone and Lorenzo Romar and their teams as both played arguably their best game of the year thus far.

Koprivica is a player that is kind of that “Euro-tweener” type, the kind that shoot from outside and tend toward perimeter play, despite being tall enough to perhaps help more on the inside. Nikola Dragovic of UCLA has struggled in that role for the Bruins this year and Cougars are in such need of both veteran play and post play that Bone could ill afford a repeat of that type of performance from his guy. The game yesterday showed Koprivica as not only able to hit shots, when found open, but to play inspired defense on the interior against quality players.

He’s been in the program for 4 years and has been overshadowed by other Cougs for virtually all of that time frame, but according to Bone that has not dampened his spirit and his drive to compete and contribute. “Nik has worked really hard at Washington State and it’s not always been appreciated. He’s trying to have the best senior year he can without being selfish, I mean here’s a guy who doesn’t start, comes in, puts in 12, 13 minutes a game and yet continues to do a good job. I was really pleased to see him get rewarded by getting some great looks and then putting them down.”

Nik got open in the flow of the offense, as he helped free other players for good looks. Though he may not shoot as well as he did last night for the rest of the season, his role is now much more clearly defined and it is a role that the Cougars desperately needed to be filled.

“We tried to set as many ball screens as we can because they are not going to defend it really well. Those guys were finding (me), I was just wide open. I had to knock them down.”

If Nik can be that 5th starter, along with the fantastic freshman Reggie Moore, who is threatening to win the Pac-10 freshman of the year, Casto, the All-American candidate Thompson and defensive wiz Marcus Capers, this is a Cougar team that really can compete for one of those top slots in the conference and a possible return to the NCAA tournament. Though ASU has perhaps more experience and perhaps schooled in a system better, WSU has the money man in Thompson that the Sun Devils lost last year with the departure of James Harden.

Also, though Derek Glasser is a senior PG that will break all of the school’s assists records, I’m not sure if Reggie Moore is not right now a better player in every way. Reggie has set a new career assist record for himself in each of the last two games and though he has such short career, that kind of production and improvement from game to game is great to see for Cougar fans. Moore sounds as if he’s just getting started.

“I’m starting to realize where guys are on the court as we play together. Certain guys like to go to certain spots and certain guys like to catch the ball certain ways.”

WSU now goes on to Seattle’s Key Arena to play the LSU Tigers this Tuesday night in what should be a very entertaining game, regardless to whether you are of a purple persuasion or some other color than Crimson. It will be interesting to see how Bone’s boys play for the Seattle fans. Since school is out in Pullman, it seems as if this is actually a very good idea from the standpoint of promoting the program outside of the Palouse and actually reaching out to where the students actually went.

Ken felt that the Kennewick game was a rousing success.

“The reality of it is we would not be able to get a great crowd in Pullman with the students gone. So to be able to come to somewhere like Kennewick and the place is packed and the people really, really appreciate us being here, I thought it was exciting.”

The old joke back east for generations has been, ‘there are more Puerto Ricans in NYC than in Puerto Rico’ and this can be used to apply to the WSU game against the Bayou Bengals. There are more Cougs in Seattle than in Pullman and many of them should be down there yelling and screaming for this team which truly deserves to be seen by anyone in Seattle with a love for basketball.

Husky Huddle

There have been a lot of Husky fans on message boards and around the water coolers talking about Abdul Gaddy. Should the Huskies have gone harder after Reggie Moore? Isaiah Thomas had much more of an impact as a freshman and when is this other Tacoma kid going to look like the star that we were told he was going to be? The doubters just keep on doubting Abdul. I think that it’s important to mention that Thomas was almost two years older than Gaddy and had played a year in the prep school ranks back east, which is an accelerated program.

Give Gaddy a year to get his feet under him and I think by this time next year, UW will have a player that looks every bit of what people said they would get in Abdul. Already he is a better choice for Washington to start games than Venoy Overton and more because of what Venoy does well than what he doesn’t.

Bringing Venoy in after the other team’s PG or top shooting guard are a bit tired, with his in your face defense is more effective and starting games with a little bit calmer approach that Gaddy does instinctively in regards to initiating the offense last night proved to be the correct choice all around.

Another comment that I have heard if that I actually agree with is that defending bigger players looks to be a problem for UW right now, but that’s what coaches are for. UW needs to get their 4 post players to address these problems and from what I’ve seen from Matthew Bryan-Amaning he is listening and improving at decent rate.

Artem Wallace had a number of issues that were worse than anything Matt presents, so did Joe Wolfinger. Matt is going to start looking pretty good later this year, if he keeps on improving at the pace he is at. Tyreese is also going to “thaw out” in my opinion and address the “Ticky-Tack” fouls that have been mentioned by many of the worriers. I think that part of Ty’s problem is playing defense to his best ability at his height. He tries to make up for lack of length from what I’m seeing by getting a bit too aggressive with his long reach.

It’s a fine line to be able to use long arms and superior strength to your advantage and not get called for fouls while in the act of reaching and securing possessions. Like Matt I think Ty listens and will learn some better techniques.

Darnell lost his starting gig for not rebounding and I believe his taking steps to fix that issue has put him back in it. He is still not a great defender of big low post players, or a great low post offensive player, but I’ve noticed improvements in his techniques down there and he tends to be a very good defender of average to small sized posts. Bringing in that mid-range game is a good thing for Gant, as he is not being looked at as a primary weapon and when an open shot opportunity falls in his lap it’s nice to know that he can nail it.

As Pondexter gets more and more attention, when teams are gearing their defense to slowing him later in the year, this factor could be the difference in a lot of close games in the Pac-10. Trent is picking things up and I thought that his play yesterday was encouraging, but he needs to come in and play like that a few games in a row before I believe that you can count on him not to log too many turnovers and fouls along with all of those great plays. Clarence looked as if he has been listening too.

It was a feel good game for the big guys really and if this group continues to listen and do what they are told by the coaches, they can do some great things this year. After a year of improvement, the addition of Enes Kanter next year to this group could be mercurial. Freshmen always get the big hype job, but this guy is a gem. Think a taller Tyler Hansbrough with a really clean looking stroke from three.

No matter how you slice it he’s only going to be an eighteen year old freshman, so UW fans have to root for this year’s guys to stay on track, as UW will need them to be that veteran group next year that can bring Kanter along, much like what Venoy and Isaiah are doing this year for Abdul.

Also, the Seattle Times did a nice 21-picture photo gallery from the Portland game.

Andy Katz led his column with the Trojans and the break out game of Mike Gerrity, but also commented on the Huskies win over Portland.

“Washington smacked Portland by 35, officially ending the early-season crush on the Pilots and proving that the Huskies might have something going after all.”

Pac-10 Gets Three More Wins

ASU sent a message across the bow to in-state rival Arizona, by beating San Diego State who the ‘Cats were soundly beaten by last week 55-52 in Tempe. To be fair, the ‘Cats faced the Aztecs on the road while the Sun Devils took this close one at home, but then again who is fair when boasting superiority? ASU is a team that wins with defense, as well as by taking the air out of the ball when they have control of it.

Four of the five Sun Devil starters scored in double figures, but it was by no means an offensive show at Wells Fargo Arena. Rihards Kuksiks and Seattle’s Jamelle McMillan had 12 points each, while Derek Glasser and Ty Abbott kicked in 11 a piece. Glasser had 5 assists and his next assist will set an Arizona State career record for dishes. Defensively ASU held all but one of the Aztec starters to single digits.

OSU continues to play sloppy, but against Mississippi Valley State it was enough to still get the win. The Beavers were able to shoot 68% percent from the field in the 2nd half and knock down treys, which was the reason that this one wasn’t closer. In an analysis piece in Scout, the point was made that if the Beavers can somehow find the magic of last season, they could make hay in a Pac-10 which has a number of teams with huge questions lingering at this point. Unfortunately, none other than perhaps UCLA have as many as the Beavs do.

“If Oregon State can find the late season magic they displayed in the latter half of this past season, and particularly during their CBI Tourney championship run, they have a golden opportunity to do some real damage in conference play. But after 10 games, that seems a big if.”

Against MVSU it was Lathen Wallace off the bench with 17 points to lead 5 Beavers in double figures in the 76-62 win over the lowly Delta Devils.

Oregon’s Michael Dunigan did what Seattle U’s Chuck Garcia could not and won a duel with Oakland’s big time center Keith Benson, while his Ducks won in Eugene OR 72-60. Dunigan had 16 points and 10 rebounds to Benson’s 14 and 3, but it was more about the rest of the Ducks handling their assignments better than Seattle U’s and Benson having help with Garcia than it was about that individual match-up.

Former JC team mates Malcolm Armstead and Jeremy Jacob also scored 12 each for the Ducks, who should have a much better team when Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron return to the line-up.

According to LA Times UCLA beat writer David Wharton, defensive play, usually a hallmark of a Ben Howland coached team, is the central problem for the Bruins.

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