From last Thursday’s “Three’s A Charm” Post:
“Prediction: On one hand it seems as if this WSU team is done. However, judging by Klay’s shooting performance over the weekend coupled with Abe’s recent hot streak, I think this team is going to toy with us a bit more before we ultimately fall short.
Mind you, a 96-67 type blow-out for the Dawgs would not surprise me one bit. But, there’s just a huge part of me that thinks that we’re going to pull this one out–making last weekend’s games even that much more painful for all of Cougar nation as we head into March.
WSU 80 Washington 75.”
So, tonight, the Cougs shock the Dawgs 80-69 by making free throws, keeping their feet on D, not over-rotating, holding onto a 10+ point lead for over ten minutes, and then executing when it seemed like the whole house of cards was crashing down on our group once again. Oh yeah, and Klay made everyone around him better (and so did Reggie Moore who was simply TERRIFIC tonight).
This team grew up BIG TIME in what was a HUGE gut check game
Of course, now the real test comes with the LA schools coming into town. And yes, win both, and we’re right back in the NCAA discussion.
But for tonight, the lads played like a WSU team–tough, smart, and full of passion.
(Click on the Jump for More Post-Game Reflections)
I would have gone into this a bit more last night, but since it was 1:00 in the morning when I signed off, I figured that it was best to hit the sack. Anyhow, a quick revisit of my keys to the game from last Thursday’s post:
“1. Keep Your Feet. Said this the last time and its true again. MBA is a killer when he gets guys in the air. Stay on the ground, and he becomes quite average–even out of control–with his back to the basket. Casto MUST stay on the ground for this one. Lets hope he does.”
Last night, Steve Kelly wrote about MBA’s difficulties in the post. Well, MBA doesn’t have difficulties in the post when the defender tries to get up and contest his shots. Simply put, when you leave your feet against MBA, he just spins to the glass where he and the other Husky leapers just live on put-back opportunities. Last night, Casto and all of our bigs kept their feet–and as importantly–kept THEIR MAN off the glass in the process. And, when you do that against Washington, then their size advantage becomes simply a burden–not a barrier that cannot be overcome.
“2. Backcourt Size. Others may disagree, but I’ve always felt that our size advantage in the backcourt can really cause Washington problems. I’m looking for Aden to have another big performance against the Dawgs, and I’m hoping that Reggie takes it at Overton morning, noon, and night. If he can get Venoy in foul trouble, this game will be a barn burner.”
Bone had a great game plan last night of having both Klay and Moore take Overton to the rack whenever they were matched up against each other. And boy did it work. While Overton was a beast at times, he fouled out for the second time in as many games. And, even though our free throw shooting was nothing short of amazing, the fact of the matter was that we went to the line a shocking 36 times. That, dear Followers, is the sign of a team that was attacking. And, as I mentioned above, both Klay and Reggie were brilliant last night. In fact, it was by far the best overall game that I’ve seen Reggie play as a Coug (his game @SC last year was unreal, but tonight he played like a true floor general. Very nice).
“3. Iced T. The X-factor for the game is Terrance Ross. Last game, he played pretty well against us. Well, with Suggs out in the is one, Ross looms as a real X factor. If he goes over 15, I think we’re done. (as in blow-out city).”
Ross was a real X factor last night. Check that, he was a real 0 factor last night–as in Goose Egg factor. While the Dawgs “held” our X factor–Aden–in check, they really needed Ross to fill the void of Suggs and he just didn’t do it. Chalk it up to being a freshman, because we had him so schooled on the baseline last night, it wasn’t even funny.
“4. Baseline. Last game, the Huskies attacked only up the middle of our zone and did so with limited success (as if 80+ points was limited!). In this one, I expect them to really attack us from the baseline, where guys like Abe and Motum are really vulnerable to Washington’s athletic slashers. How Bone decides to set us up for this adjustment will be a really interesting facet of this game.”
Bone did a really nice job of placing our wings in the passing lanes last night which really limited the ability of UW to attack the baseline. That said, it was still quite amazing that they didn’t go there nearly at all. In the first five minutes of the game, Halliday took a ball from the baseline 3 area, pump faked, got Motum in the air, and then promptly drilled a 12 footer right in Casto’s face. At that point, I’m thinking “uh oh.” Of course, they ran that play all of ZERO times the rest of the game. Its one of the many reasons why Romar gets the “huh?” coaching award that Bone had on his mantle for the past several weeks.
“5. Shooting. I know that this is a big duh, but long rebounds from missed jumpers are what gets teams like Washington out on the fast track. So, if we’re going to stay in this one, we’re going to have to shoot it really well. And of course, that means ball movement on the perimeter as well as in and out of the post.”
While we didn’t shoot the ball at a Villanova v. Georgetown clip, our ball movement was really, really nice. Lots of nice pick and rolls and curls from the elbow. And Bone did a wonderful job of having Moore run the offense from nearly half court. This adjustment really spread the floor nicely and enabled much more action off the ball. On top of that, Moore stayed under control the entire night, in spite of playing at 3,000 miles an hour. Really, really impressive. In addition, our entry passes into the post were really text book. And while part of that could be attributed to how much we spread the court, it looked like we just kind of figured it all out last night. And let me tell you, while I still HATE our match-up with UCLA, if we play with that type of poise, we’re going to be a real tough team to reckon with this week and beyond.
1) Aden. I know that many of you are frustrated with his offensive numbers (1 for 9 last night). At the same time, we need Aden. And we need him badly. Simply put, it Aden can start making that wide open three again, this team will make the Pac-10 championship game. If he doesn’t, then we might not win a game next week. As I noted in last Thursday’s post, when we get production from the 3 spot, we’ve got a .700 winning percentage. Last night, our output from the 3 spot was nine points. Had it been 10, we’d have moved to 8-3 in conference with double digit production from the 3 spot. Had it been 10, we’d have moved to 6-1 in conference when we get 10 or more from the 3 AND 4 spot. So, keep shooting it, Faisel, we need you buddy!
2). Subs, Subs, Subs. Last night’s game was the second time that I’ve seen Bone (in conference) go to the Mayhem subsitution pattern. The other times he’s shuffled guys in and out and in and out: Kansas State, Gonzaga, Baylor. Each time he’s done that, we’ve looked like a tournament team. With a VERY thin USC team coming into town on Thursday, here’s to hoping that Bone continues to use that substitution pattern. It works for all involved.
3) Adjustment. Last game, Bone put NO ONE on the offensive glass in favor of getting everyone back. Last night, Bone sent guys to the offensive glass but then put us in man when whenever we didn’t score so that we’d find guys in transition. We then did a dummy 2-2-1 press whenever we scored followed by our match-up zone. It was a good look and hopefully one that we’ll continue to see this week. Again, great coaching and execution.
4) Three Ball Defense. Didn’t chart the uncontested threes last night, but it wasn’t hard to see that the only time the Dawgs made any was when they were wide stinking open. And that was few and far between. So, while our zone will ALWAYS be vulnerable to a barrage from three land, the bottom line is that for 3 halves of basketball (counting the second half of the ASU game), we have forced teams to shoot over us. And, with the transition opportunities created by long rebounds, you can bank on the fact that if we continue to make teams shoot over us, we’re going to find ourselves squarely on that NCAA bubble.
Again, great win last night. While I think that this team is going to lose this Saturday against UCLA, the USC game is really all that we have to worry about. Win both next week and we’ll sneak into that 4-5 game. Do that, and we’re right where we want to be for a game against Arizona (if we win the first tourney game) which, were we to win, puts us in the Dance.