A lot of people are pointing to limiting Jon Brockman’s impact on the game today as a key for the Cougars to win. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.
Historically, Brockman hasn’t had his best games against WSU. The reason is simple: Aron Baynes is precisely the kind of player that gives Brockman fits. For all of Brockman’s hustle, grit and savvy, at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds – which I tend to think is probably exaggerated on both counts – he just can’t really get around or over a 6-foot-10, 250-pound brick wall no matter how much he tries.
While Brockman’s rebounding percentages in games against the Cougs have been more or less in line with his season numbers over the past three seasons, his offensive ratings have been decidedly below par – just 88.5 in those contests. Additionally, Brockman was a virtual non-factor in that blowout win on Jan. 3, with just an 87 offensive rating (sixth on the team) and 9 percent each offensive and defensive rebounding.
So what killed us in that opener? Besides Justin Dentmon’s long-range shooting and our own inability to cope with the press, it was the offensive rebounding by every other Husky. The Cougars are the No. 1 defensive rebounding team in the country – gobbling up an astounding 75.4 percent of defensive rebounding opportunities – but the Huskies showed that day why they’re the No. 2 offensive rebounding team in the country, grabbing a ridiculous 45.1 percent of their offensive rebounding opportunities. That is a season-high allowed for the Cougs.
The reason was simple: The dribble penetration the Cougs repeatedly allowed.
It’s not that the Huskies have a ton of exceptional rebounders; it’s just that their dribble penetration demands help from other defenders, which then leaves other offensive players – such as Quincy Pondexter, Darnell Gant and Matthew Bryan-Amaning – free to crash the glass with no one boxing out. And when guys have the kind of the length and athletic ability those three do, you better have a body on them or you’re going to lose a 50/50 ball every time.
So here’s the key to today’s game: Keep the Huskies from penetrating at all costs. Brockman will probably get his rebounds, but if the Cougars can contain penetration to the degree that they don’t need help from defenders off the ball, it will limit the offensive rebounding opportunities.
It’s also going to be important for DeAngelo Casto to keep his emotions in check and not obsess about blocking every shot. Whenever you go for a block, you have to leave your man. Casto will have to be smart and pick and choose spots where he’s: A) Pretty certain he’ll get the block, and B) Not likely to give up an easy put back if he doesn’t get the block.