USA TODAY Sports
Call me crazy, but I don't think our team is as bad as we showed this past Wednesday night. Or, call me Ishmael, because any type of post-season play is rapidly approaching white whale status. Normally, a home game against the Washington State Cougars should feel like a safe bet. Their 9-4 pre-conference schedule is a bit misleading because it's mitigated by a #263 strength of schedule ranking and #200 RPI. 0-2 to start the conference seems like a more accurate representation of the real Cougars. Having dismissed their returning senior point guard, Reggie Moore, for a violation of team rules during the offseason, they've been forced to go with point guard by committee using a trio of shooting guards.
The stats aren't kind to Wazzu with both offensive and defensive rankings in the 9th-11th slots in the Pac-12. For comparison sake, ours aren't much better with most metrics putting us at 7th-9th.
But, this is the same Cougar team that nearly came all the way back from a fifteen point 2nd half deficit to trip up the Huskies. We didn't acquit ourselves nearly as well.
And, they've got a star power forward, Brock Motum, with whom we simply have no one with a reasonable chance of matching up defensively.
Not a lot of chalk talk or clever scheming for this one. With apologies for stating the obvious, we have to play harder and play better, or we're going to get embarrassed again at home.
F Brock Motum(Sr), 6'10, 245 lbs, 19.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg
F D.J. Shelton(Jr), 6'10, 250 lbs, 5.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg
G Royce Woolridge(So), 6'3, 175 lbs, 6.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.7 apg
G DaVonte Lacy(So), 6'3, 206 lbs, 11.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg
G Mike Ladd(Sr), 6'5, 195 lbs, 9.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 apg
Brock Motum turned down the NBA draft to play out his senior season. He's got guard skills in a big man's body which makes him a tough, tough cover. Besides being a skilled post scorer, he has a reliable jumpshot all the way out to three point range. Mike Ladd was a steady reserve shooting guard last year. This season, he's been called upon to run the point. He's done a credible job considering that he's never played the position before. DaVonte Lacy emerged last year as one of their best outside shooters.(34% 3FG) Royce Woolridge is a transfer from Kansas. He's known for his slashing athleticism. However, his jumpshot remains streaky. (35% FG) D.J. Shelton is their designated space-eater in the paint. He's more of a defensive/rebounding presence than a scorer. However, he's recently shown the ability to step out and hit consistently from deep. Sometimes starter Dexter Kernich-Drew likes to put up threes from the bench and leads the team in attempts. This might be a good thing because he only hits them at a 27% clip.
Keys to the Game:
1) Show some pride.
Monty essentially called out the whole team in his post-game interview and called them "soft." As fans, we understand that this team has flaws and little depth. We understand that players will make mistakes and that the other team sometimes just out-plays you. But it's really hard to watch when the opposition so thoroughly out-works and out-hustles you.
2) Get back to team basketball.
We look tentative on offense and confused on defense. We've got five guys on the court, but they sure as heck aren't on the same page. As feared, relying on Cobbs and Crabbe to carry the team by playing one on one basketball just isn't going to work against tougher competition.
3) Make Motum earn his points.
Whether it's playing inspired man defense, or using some type of double team, we need him to shoot a low percentage. Of course, the Cougars are used to this type of game plan and will use extra attention on Motum to get their guards open jumpers. They're not great shooters, but can make you pay with enough good looks. One wrinkle Monty has used in the past has been his "monster" double by sending another post player.
Game Time: Saturday, January 12th. 1pm(PST)
TV: Pac-12 Networks