The Bears head up to the recesses of Pullman for their second matchup with the Washington State Cougars. The first matchup was less than satisfactory. Josh Hawkinson had the game of his life, Klay Thompson sprinkled a little bit of his magic onto the Cougs, and the Bears fell by three points. The only reason it ended up that close was the magnificent play of Jordan Mathews, who had excellent performances against the Washington school. The only problem is that this game began a six-game losing streak, with every game afterward being a double-digit loss. We return to Pullman a much different team than when they showed up to our door in Haas.
But while now may be the winter of our discontent, we do have a chance to make this game our glorious summer by the sun of York. A victory, no matter by how much or how little, will provide a light that this team can cling to. It can carry over to facing a Washington team that we outplayed and that has lost their best shot blocker in Robert Upshaw. There may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The game still has to be played though, and that means the problems from the previous game have to be rectified. Against Washington State, those problems were twofold. First, you aren't going to win when you shoot 25% in the first half. Especially when David Kravish ends up shooting 2 for 9. That is unacceptable, along with the shooting of anyone not named Jordan Mathews in that game. The second problem was a matter of post defense. Playing Hawkinson last time on defense didn't work. Defense on Jordan Railey didn't work. While Kravish is an excellent shot blocker, he needs some help to avoid being pushed back on post defense. If the Bears can avoid getting lost on their rotations, they can attempt to double in the post to cause havoc. Who starts off on Hawkinson will be interesting, whether we stay with Dwight Tarwater at the four spot, or Behrens or Okoroh returns to the lineup to give us size against the Wazzu front line.
G(Sr), 6'4, 215 lbs, 16.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.2 apg
G(Fr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 5.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.9 apg
G(So), 6'2, 190 lbs, 8.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.8 apg
F Josh Hawkinson(So), 6'10, 245 lbs, 15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg
C(Sr), 7'0, 245 lbs, 5.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G(So), 6'5, 205 lbs, 5.8 ppg, 2.7rpg
F(Jr), 6'7, 230 lbs, 6.3 ppg
G/F(Sr), 6'7, 190 lbs, 3.8 ppg
We saw the problems that Hawkinson can cause. He is a shotmaker on the inside, can hit an occasional three when called upon, and he will get rebounds. He had 13 against us in Haas and will corral a plurality of their defensive rebounds. A threat from the last game was Jordan Railey. A transfer from Iowa State, Railey had 17 points, most of them coming on either layups or postups. He has to be kept off the offensive glass and potentially doubled. He doesn't have the greatest passing instincts, so doubling could cause turnovers. DaVonte Lacy provides the same problems mentioned in the last preview of Washington State. He's an all around threat who can shoot and drive. If he can be held without the 10 free throws he took last time, that will be a good sing. Iroegbu is only going to hurt you if you let him. Kernich-Drew is working on his masters in theology, because he's been there forever. Boese and Johnson can shoot, but they would be playing basketball at the division 1 level if they couldn't.
Anyway, on to the #tracepuntos to victory
1. The Bird is the Word
Everyone's been a little disappointed in the return of Jabari Bird. When he's hot, it's like a night at the craps table, all sevens and it's a wonderful night. When he's off, you get snake eyes multiple times, put your car up as collateral, and go to weekly meetings for your "problem." Maybe Jabari's problems will wear off, because he didn't have too many opportunities against Arizona. Personally, I want to see the elevator doors play, used to great effect by the Warriors, used for our shooters. Getting Bird some open looks to drill helped jump start the victory over Syracuse, and can hopefully do the same here.
2. Move the ball
This squad needs to take a tip from Cliff Paul and master the assist. Stagnancy with moving the ball around has killed the offense in the half-court set. As noted a few times in the Arizona game, there were open players dotting the perimeter if Tyrone wanted to pass out. He will need to pass out if we want to avoid a repeat of the last matchup between the two teams. This goes for Kravish in the post. There is a set play that got ran multiple times against Arizona to give Kravish the ball in the post. The ball kept going in to him with lackluster results. No cuts for him to pass to and no one getting open. This has to change as well.
3. Bring the Ruckus
The best way to stop post threats is by making them as uncomfortable as possible. This means constant doubling, using Ty as a bit of a free safety to sneak up and knock balls away. Denying the ball can help with this, but pestering the post up guy who isn't used to handling the ball will cause turnovers. This team will either get a layup, dunk, or free throws off a steal, so there needs to be an emphasis on making the big plays. Railey doesn't seem like someone who will keep a level head when doubled, so put the heat on him and see what the defense can do to him.