Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Oregon Schools Come to Town

Coach Ken Bone might not want to admit it, but if the Cougars intend to make a run at the NCAA tournament, they must win both games this weekend.

What a difference six days and three lackluster games can make. The Cougs, 10-4, seemed to have all the momentum in the world after advancing to the Diamond Head Classic final with a 77-71 victory over No. 15 Baylor. But the fatigue of six games in 14 days became apparent in the second halves of their three most-recent games against Butler, UCLA and USC. In all three games, the opponents made late scoring runs the Cougars could neither counter nor match.

Now, WSU finds itself desperate for wins against Oregon State and Oregon, needing at least a split this weekend to avoid a disastrous 0-4 conference start that would all but eliminate WSU from NCAA tournament consideration.
Oregon State, 7-6, comes into tonight’s game with a surprising pair of opening weekend victories over Arizona State and Arizona.

Keys to trapping the Beavers in tonight's game include:

1. Getting Klay Thompson involved early – If his first few shots don't go down, he tends to struggle. Thompson’s most efficient games this season have been when he converts easy buckets around the rim to start the game.

2. Getting More Bench scoring – The Cougar bench has been quieter than the patrons of the Owen Science library.

The Cougars need to do a better job of incorporating sophomore forward Brock Motum into the offense. Motum is shooting 65-percent from the field and 50-percent beyond the arc this season but has had limited touches in each of the last three games for the Cougars (perhaps part of the reason they're struggling).

3. Regaining Their Swarming Defense – The fatigue of traveling has undoubtedly taken its toll. The Cougars’ zone defense, a key to their early season success, has not been efficient lately. They are failing to close out on shooters and are often a step slow in their rotations, allowing for lots of open looks.

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