Without the aid of former Fresno State recruit Reggie Moore - and DeAngelo Casto - the Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden Show took their talents to the Save Mart Center Friday night. The Cougs' dynamic duo scored 50 points. Fresno State scored 55.
That's not to say they did it alone. With Casto out, the Cougars needed a frontcourt player to come through in the worst way - and Brock Motum delivered. 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting with 7 rebounds and no turnovers. This was arguably Brock's most impressive performance since his breakout game last season against Arizona.
Fresno State is not good. Currently ranked 259th by Kenpom, they were coming off a 15 point loss to UC Santa Barbara, and the only win on their resume so far is over Vanguard, which is either a college or an investment management company. Having said that, this was still an 11 point win when the dust settled. And even though it was close throughout, the Cougs were playing on the road without two of their four best players. So I don't see any reason to panic just yet.
Now if Reggie and DeAngelo end up being out longer than we think - panic.
There is one thing that just strikes me as odd about this win. If you look at the four factors (and the final score), this game had the stamp of a Bennett Ball team. Exceptional shooting and ball protection, but a complete lack of offensive rebounding. Free throw rate, a trademark of last year's team, was also nonexistent again. I don't think Nikola Koprivica was the reason for us being so dominant at the line last year, so again I'll chalk this up to Reggie's absence.
The rebounding issue is serious, and troublesome. It was great to get another eight boards from Marcus Capers... which is perhaps why Bone is hinting at going really small when Moore returns (e.g. Reggie, Aden, Klay, Capers, Casto). But the Cougs really need frontcourt players to rebound, and we have yet to see if Brock Motum and Patrick Simon can win battles against the best of the Pac-10. Meanwhile, Charlie Enquist's line was, um, interesting: 14 minutes, 1 rebound. Nothing else. Zeros across the board. I have no idea what to make of this, especially since I didn't see the game. But we need someone like Enquist - or perhaps a healthy Steven Bjornstad - to add something on the defensive glass.
The most encouraging thing is how well this team values the ball. This is extremely rare for both a young team, and a team whose core unit hasn't been playing together for very long. If the Cougs keep this up, along with their shooting, they can put themselves in a position to be very competitive in conference.
Player of the Game: Faisal Aden - Aden is no longer just another nice piece - we're finding out he's a key component to this team in 2010. I'm starting to view him as a Josh Akognon type scorer at the two guard - only so far Aden's been a lot more consistent than Akognon was. Friday: 28 points on 11 of 22 shooting (6 of 12 from three), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and only 2 turnovers in a game-high 37 minutes.
Right Hand Man: Klay Thompson - 22 points on 8 of 17 shooting, and over half of the Cougs' ten free throw attempts. The only negative was he had half of the team's ten turnovers. Still, Klay is virtually unstoppable against teams with lesser talent. Especially when teams can't throw the kitchen sink at him any more in terms of defense (thanks, Faisal!).
Unsung Hero: Brock Motum - Motum is currently my favorite in the race to replace Nikola Koprivica's production at the 4... only he has to play at the 5 when Casto is out. Still, he has been rebounding well, he's kept his fouls to a minimum and has shown the ability to hit a three-point shot or two. Always a plus.
Stat of the Game: WSU outscored Fresno 14-6 off turnovers. That makes up much of the difference in the final score. When a team protects the ball like WSU did tonight, they make it very hard to lose. Even without some key players.