The Sacramento State Hornets wanted to clog the lane, and force WSU to beat them from the perimeter.
So, they did.
Washington State shot 15 of 29 from three point range as the Cougars downed Sac State 76-55.
It wasn't easy for WSU, who faced their first defecit of the season in the first half. After jumping out to a 10-3 lead, Sacramento State went on a 13-4 run to take a two point lead.
Then the Cougars got hot. The three point barrage was led by Taylor Rochestie (5 of 6), Klay Thompson (5 of 9) and Daven Harmeling (3 of 8). That countered an 8 for 18 three-point night by the Hornets - the reason CSUS was able to stay in the game for as long as they did.
CougCenter Player of the Game: It's hard to deny Klay Thompson and his career-high 17 points, but this night belonged to Taylor Rochestie. 17 points and 10 assists earned Taylor his first double-double as a Cougar (he had one previously at Tulane, in points and rebounds). Don't forget about his 5 of 6 night from beyond the arc, in addition to 3 steals and only 1 turnover. Yep, he's good.
But don't discount the team effort. Despite Sac State's crowd-the-lane-at-all-costs defense, Aron Baynes was one of four Cougars in double digits with 13 points. Daven Harmeling added 13 as well.
The Hornets were led by lanky center Mike Edwards, who went five for five from the floor to finish with 10 points.
CougCenter Play of the Game: Tough decision, but I'm going with Taylor Rochestie's three pointer to give the Cougars the lead for good at 21-18. It was demoralizing for Sacramento State, who shot and rebounded extremely well early, to fall behind, and the three by Rochestie sparked a 12-2 run that put the Cougars in control of this one.
What happened to the defense? We've been hyping up the defense all season so far, and statistically they had an off night against CSUS. Sac State shot 46.8% from the field and 44.4% from the arc to stay in the game. There were two reasons for this. One, credit the Hornets. They shot well and made some difficult shots look easy. Second - and Tony mentioned this in the postgame radio show - the Cougars just didn't close out on three-point shooters like they should have. They got hands in shooter's faces, but often too late, and missed out on more than a couple block opportunities on the perimeter.
With Sac State shooting so well, how did the Cougs make this a blowout? They forced 18 turnovers (compared to 6 for WSU). Klay Thompson's defense also made the Hornets leading scorer, Loren Leath, a non-factor. Leath shot 3 of 10, including 1 of 6 from distance, and was blocked on a three-point attempt early by Klay.
Another concern: The Cougars have been giving up a surprising amount of offensive rebounds this year. After a relatively poor night on the glass against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Cougs gave up another seven offensive boards to undersized Sacramento State. Still, WSU countered with 11 O-Rebs of their own, and outrebounded the Hornets 29-28. Remember, Sac State shot well, which is why the total rebounding margin isn't even more in favor of the Cougars.
Seven seniors in 2012? Mike Harthun's redshirt was burned tonight, and he scored his first collegiate bucket in five minutes of play. What does that mean? It means that Capers, Thompson, Harthun, Lodwick, Casto, Enquist and Witherill are all set to graduate in four years. Only James Watson and walk-on John Allen are freshmen still eligible for an extra year.
I understand why Tony might do this. It gives the Cougars exceptional depth this year and allows Bennett to see which players will be ready to contribute when the current group of seniors graduate. Still, I'm not a fan of it, because a seven-man senior class means we will be forced to break in another huge freshman class somewhere down the line. It's not a huge issue, but if you want to compete year-in and year-out, I believe it helps to have balance among your classes. Still, that big recruiting class of Low, Weaver, Cowgill, Harmeling and Henry turned out pretty darn good. So will our current freshmen.
Perhaps one of the keys to Bennett ball is getting a great group of players in, and have them play a lot and play together for four years. Still, math tells us five years is more than four, and some of our players like Harthun and Witherill that could potentially benefit from that extra year may not get it now.