I owe another look at the WSU-Cal game, but hadn't been able to get to it as quickly as I wanted. Since I have a few spare moments now, it's as good a time as any to take one more look back. Briefly, I'll try to explain why we saw some of the things we saw, and what it means going forward.
Let's do this, bullet-point style.
- From the start, Jeff and I both noted how depressing it was to see Cal jump right into a 2-3 zone and dare WSU to shoot over it. After all, this is a team that was, at one time, know for its deadly three-point accuracy. Yet here Cal was, cutting off the lanes, denying the post and, essentially, saying "shoot over us, try it." So in the first half, WSU did try, shooting uncontested threes that weren't falling.
- Klay Thompson had a subpar game statistically, but I wouldn't go as far as saying it was a poor game. He did a lot of things that won't show up in a box score or a stat sheet. When Cal went zone, Thompson vacated his typical position on the wing as WSU worked to solve the defense from the inside out. That meant Thompson started near the baseline, flashed to the high-post and moved without the ball from there. This was important, not because it opened shots for him, but for what it did to the rest of the offense.
- Which brings me to his effectiveness. As Thompson flashed to the high post, the top of the zone sagged back on him. At the same time, the anchor cheated up. It did two things for WSU: Opened up driving and shooting lanes on the wing and created space in the low-post for Brock Motum or DeAngelo Casto to sneak in underneath the defense. The outside shots weren't falling, but they also weren't bad shots, either. And the inside game? Well, that was probably the best production we've seen all year.
- This game should've been a blowout, but not in a "we're way better than Cal" kind of way. In the second half, with WSU up 11, Faisal Aden made a series of mental mistakes that kept WSU from running away, the biggest of which was his missed dunk on a breakaway. I get firing up the crowd and making a highlight reel play, but just lay it in. After a disgusting sequence on both ends of the floor, Klay Thompson hit a three to break the funk, Ken Bone pulled a Howland and Aden was on the bench.
- A little over a month ago, Grady advocated for more Motum. At the time, I didn't think it would have much affect. But, as Grady said then, Motum has the ability to affect the game, especially against a zone, with his ability to find space while using his court vision as an advantage. Against Cal, he did just that, and was rewarded with a career game.
- Fine, I can't leave the statement like that. You probably want to know how and why. The story's not around anymore, but you can see an excerpt here. Motum made five layups, and missed two, on the night while adding seven points from the free throw line. Of his four missed shots, two were from point-blank, one was a mid-range and one was a three. Brock Motum: Zone breaker.
- Where was Marcus Capers? If I had to venture a guess, the easy answer here would be Cal forcing Ken Bone into an offensive lineup based on the defensive alignment. Aden should be a zone-breaker, though he wasn't at times, while Capers loses some of his effectiveness against the zone. The defense can sag while not worry about him shooting a jumper, clogging the lanes and playing five on four. It was a calculated risk, sacrificing on the defensive end, but it worked.
- I should probably mention DeAngelo Casto. Against the Bears, Casto played like a man -- the sort of play we've grown accustomed to from him over the last few games. From diving on the floor to showing off a versatile inside game on the offensive end, Casto was a key for the Cougs on Saturday. Even after spraining his ankle, he came back in and immediately sparked a run that went something like this: O-Reb, layup, steal, dunk, layup (and-one), assist to Motum for a layup (and-one). Yep, just Casto saving the game.
- Emerson Murray hit 1-4 shots, finishing with three points and three assists. Yep, he's the one that got away.