Last season featured two very interesting match-ups between the Huskies and Cougars with UW coming out victorious in both games. The Cougars held early double digit leads both nights before surrendering the lead to the much more talented Husky squad. This year, the Cougars and Huskies and a bit more comparable in terms of talent and production due to the “graduation” of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten and the removal of Reggie Moore this past off season.
The Cougars center their game around 6-10 245lb senior Brock Motum who exploded onto the scene last season. Averaging 19.7 points per game, 2nd in the Pac-12, and 7 rebounds a night Motum has clearly established himself as a powerful threat on the block and a legitimate concern outside the arc where he is shooting a respectable 32% . Motum will get his 20 points Saturday night without a doubt. The Huskies simply do not have an answer for Motum’s size and versatility. The key for the Huskies is to shut down everyone else to the point where Motum’s impact will simply not matter. The other option is to force Motum to foul often and early to remove him from the game.
DaVonte Lacy is the only other Cougar in double digits with an 11.8 point per game average. As with Motum, Lacy is solid inside and shoots well outside the arc. With 19 makes on 46 attempts, Lacy is slightly outpacing Motum who has made 13 shots on 40 attempts from deep. Standing 6-3 206lb, Lacy is a well built guard who may prove troublesome for guys like Hikeem Stewart and Andrew Andrews who are smaller in size. Keeping Aziz N’Diaye away from foul trouble will prove more important in this aspect as his huge frame will be needed to clog the lanes against the driving Cougar guards.
Mike Ladd and Royce Woolridge have been the leading play-makers for the Cougars during the 2013 non-conference season. Combining for nearly 5.5 assists per game the duo account for nearly half of the Cougars 13 assist average. Ladd has helped provide Motum with production off the glass averaging 5.5 rebounds a night. The players are also averaging a combined 16 points per night.
This should be a close game with both sides having some reasonable talent in their starting line-ups, yet depth issues affect both squads’ abilities to generate a full 40 minutes of high octane offense and defense. The Huskies have the advantage in the backcourt, while the Cougars have the stronger frontcourt due to Motum’s sheer dominating talents. The home court could certainly prove the deciding factor. The Huskies average 71 points to the Cougars 65. Both teams average 36.2 rebounds per night. The Cougars slightly overtake the Huskies in assists per game at 12.8 to 12.2. The Huskies hold a .1% advantage in the shooting percentage category 44.6% to 44.5%.
Any other year I could easily imagine the Huskies riding out of Pullman victorious, this year I am much less certain. This squad seems to lack the drive and will to pull off the upset on a rival’s home court. The Cougars narrowly lost to Gonzaga in the first week of December and is now riding a 4 game winning streak. The Huskies, on the other hand, were on a 4 game winning streak before falling to Connecticut. Anything can happen during a rivalry match, but I remain less than optimistic for Saturday’s showdown.