Pac-10 Tournament Game Preview: WSU

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by: Griffin Bennett

Who: WSU (19-11, 9-9) vs. UW (20-11, 11-7)

When: Thursday, 8:30 PM

Where: Los Angeles, Pac-10 Tournament

TV: FSN

Let’s hope the third time’s the charm. If there is one team that I wouldn’t want to lose to three times in one year, it would be the Cougs. I couldn’t handle the daily teasing and bragging from all of my Wazzu friends. It would be the highlight of their season. Not only that, but if they beat the Huskies and then possibly beat UCLA, they could even make it into the NCAA tournament. The Huskies can’t let this happen. While it’s still possible that the Dawgs will make the Big Dance without a win Thursday night, it still needs to be viewed as a “must win”.

I probably don’t have to remind you of the two losses the Huskies suffered at the hands of the Cougs earlier this year. WSU employed their zone defense and shut down the Huskies offense on both occasions. Venoy Overton will also miss the game due to his recent suspension while Justin Holiday is still questionable with a concussion. Holiday will undergo tests later Thursday afternoon and if he passes he will play. Holiday hasn’t practiced at all this week so his impact and roll could be limited. On the other side, Klay Thompson’s suspension has been lifted by Ken Bone and he will play Thursday alongside Reggie Moore who is back from an ankle injury. The degree of difficulty for this game seems to be quite high and it almost seems like the plot of a bad premium cable sports movie.

The odds are stacked against the Huskies and somehow they are still a 5.5 point favorite in Vegas. The loss of Overton will definitely affect the team defense and force Isaiah Thomas to play almost the whole game at point guard. He will definitely play 35+ minutes Thursday night which will only add more pressure on a player who has been in a slump recently. If Holiday does not play it will take away the Dawgs’ best defending option on Klay Thompson. The Huskies couldn’t even beat the Cougs with those two players earlier so the biggest factor will be the Huskies ability to beat the zone. Let’s hope Romar has been sleeping in his office this week.

Cougars 101:

There’s nothing new for the Cougs. It’s still a team led by Klay Thompson and his 21.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, and 1.8 spg. Klay is a great player and we all know what he can bring to a game. The next in line are Faisal Aden, DeAngelo Casto, and Reggie Moore. They each score 12.9, 12.0, and 9.5 ppg respectively. Aden is their their perimeter shooter, Casto is the big man down low, and Moore is their point guard. The Cougars have not changed all year and we can predict what they are going to look like on Thursday. Thompson will score, Aden will shoot, Moore will drive, Casto will block. Throw in a Brock Motum, Marcus Capers, and Abe Lodwick and you have a scrappy team that plays with high energy.

As I mentioned above, the scariest part of the Cougars is their zone defense that has confused the Huskies twice already. They were the team that exposed the Huskies soft underbelly and every team afterwards took advantage. Coach Ken Bone knows how Romar likes to coach and prepare his teams and I think Bone has used that to his advantage. Here’s how the Cougars starting line-up should look.

Starting Line-up:

PG: Reggie Moore – 6’1

SG: Marcus Capers – 6’4

SF: Klay Thompson – 6’6

PF: Abe Lodwick – 6’7

C: DeAngelo Casto – 6’8

Keys to Victory:

  • Fast Start – The Huskies can’t survive another slow start like they had a week ago. They can’t get down 10+ points in the first half again and an early lead will help them control the tempo.
  • Beat the Zone – Attack the paint, shoot from the elbow, effective passing, three-point shots, and offensive rebounds. If the Huskies can accomplish all of those then a win will follow.
  • Stars Must Shine – Thomas and Bryan-Amaning have to show up big and remind us all of why they are All Pac-10 first teamers.
  • Rebounding – If Casto is in a zone, then MBA needs to be able to take advantage. If he doesn’t have 10+ rebounds then I doubt the Huskies have won the game. It’s not only on his shoulders, but the Huskies need to take advantage of every opportunity.
  • Control the Tempo – Force turnovers and change the pace into the Huskies favor. Intensity will be the key.

Game Prediction:

It’s going to be a tough battle as each team is playing for their post-season life. Unfortunately, the Huskies have the deck stacked against them. Without Venoy and with Holiday being a question mark, it’s going to take a coaching masterpiece from Romar. If Holiday does not play then I don’t see a Husky win tonight. How am I supposed to pick the Huskies to win when they are short handed and have lost twice to the same team? My heart is telling me yes, but my mind refuses to let me honestly pick the Huskies to win. I hope the team proves me, and the world, wrong. Huskies lose 76-78.

***UPDATE: 3:39*** Romar has stated that Holiday will play.