by: John Chase
WSU is coming off a 22 point drubbing of Arizona State (a game in which ASU had only 8 points in the first half, but picked up 42 in the second), but will be without a key player in Faisal Aden. Aden has been the second leading scorer for the Cougars. The Cougars are 6-9 in Pac-12 play and are looking to scrap their way to a .500 conference record in their final three games. It will be senior night tomorrow and you can bet the Cougars will be looking for vengence after the comeback the Dawgs had in their last meeting.
You never know what type of game will happen in a rivalry match-up. The Cougar audience has been lax this season with the stadium rarely getting about half capacity. The season high has been 5,500 out of a possible 11,500. I imagine that the Dawgs coming to town will roll in a big crowd, though I would also wager that a large majority of the “new” attendees will be Husky fans. Myself and nearly 40 of my friends will be making the trek out east tomorrow to cheer on the Huskies.
The Cougars are driven by a new and improved Brock Motum who is proving to be one of the most dangerous players in the league. Motum is leading all scorers in conference games and is averaging just under 18 points a game. He does it all: 3-pointers, on the block, and even mid range. On top of the scoring, Motum leads the Cougars in rebounding with 6.5 a night. Where Motum suffers is his turnovers. Motum is averaging a little over 3 turnovers per night, which is not terribly surprising given how often the ball is in his hands. Motum is one of two players on the team averaging over 30 minutes per game, the other being Reggie Moore. Containing Motum will be tough, if not impossible. The Dawgs should look to limit his touches by playing tight, man-to-man backcourt defense or possibly a zone. Motum can have 25 points as long as we shut down the rest of the Cougar offense.
Reggie Moore is the leading play-maker for the Cougs. Averaging nearly 6 assists and only 2.5 turnovers per game, Moore is showing the type of team play that made I.T. so successful in his days at Washington. Moore is also averaging just under 10 points and 3 rebounds a night. Moore finds most of his opportunities inside the paint on slash-and-drive attacks. His outside shot is solid with a 37% average usually making one 3-pointer a night on three attempts. Containing Moore will limit how often Motum gets a hold of the ball so forcing Moore into turnover situations will be a critical aspect of the game.
DaVonte Lacy is the other main scoring option for the Cougars. Lacy is an outside scoring threat that will need to be addressed. Lacy leads the Cougs in 3-point makes and attempts hitting 49 of his 132 shots. Lacy is a versatile player who does a little bit of everything for the team. He is averaging 2 rebounds, assists, and turnover per game. At 6-3 202lb, Lacy may be a perfect match-up for Tony Wroten. Lacy may be the only thing that holds the Huskies back from dropping into a zone.
Marcus Capers has been a pivotal role player for the Cougars. I hesitate to say role player because Capers is a starter, but his impact on the game is much lower than his fellow starters. Capers is averaging only 5 points a game, but does his best work on the glass where he picks up 5 boards a night. Outside of that, Capers is more of a defensive threat than an offensive weapon.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups:
Reggie Moore 6-1 180lb
DaVonte Lacy 6-3 202lb
Marcus Capers 6-4 185lb
Abe Lodwick 6-7 208lb
Brock Motum 6-10 240lb
Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
Tony Wroten 6-5 205lb
Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
Desmond Simmons 6-7 225lb
Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb
Keys to the Game:
- Get Hot Early – Terrence Ross is finally showing up in the first half of games and boy is it paying off. Our team needs to get their shots dropping early to avoid the slow start that nearly doomed them in the last game against the Cougs. Terrence Ross was critical in the comeback and he will play a pivotal role in this game as well. The Cougars simply don’t have an answer for both Ross and Wroten. If one is getting hot and the Cougs attempt to contain him, the other will be getting open looks. Add on Aziz N’Diaye in the paint, who should not have too many struggles in getting attempts at the hoop, as well as a healthier C.J. Wilcox and we could finally find ourselves scoring early and often once more. It will not be easy. The atmosphere will be hostile and the road is hardly ever kind to the visiting team. The Dawgs have their work cut out.
- Rebounding – This is our teams greatest strength and it has been the key to several victories this year. Our outside shot has been quite poor the past few weeks, which means a lot more rebounds have been up for grabs. Guys like Ross, Wroten, and N’Diaye have been monumental this season at clearing house and getting the easy put backs. The Dawgs need to continue their dominance on the glass to battle their way to victory.
- Free Throws – Without Aden, the Cougars are nearly as poor of a free throw shooting team as the Dawgs. I’ve said it game in and game out, free throws win ball games. We are in the final stretch of the season and these freebies are just as, if not more, critical than ever. Now that Wilcox and Ross are finally driving into the paint, they are getting to the line and capitalizing in way the rest of our teams struggles to achieve.
This will be a tough game, I have no doubts. I also believe this is a very winnable game. The Huskies have things going their way and have been firing on all cylinders, well minus the outside shooting cylinder. Our bigs are developing into scoring threats, our wings are getting their act together, and our guards are playing some of their best basketball to date.
The Cougars will miss Aden a lot and the fact that the team gave up 42 points in the second half to ASU is startling, especially given the “depth” of the Cougar bench. The Huskies have been a second half team this entire season so the fact that the Cougars gave up so many points to such a terrible team is a good sign for us.
The Dawgs need to dig deep and gut out another tough road win, well three road wins to be exact, placing us in prime position to seize not only the regular season, but tournament title as well.
Final Score Prediction: UW-74 WSU-68