I think it's safe to say we're on cloud nine after the WSU Cougars' sweep of Cal and Stanford... and subsequent move up the standings in the Pac-12.
Faisal Aden will get a large amount of the credit for the wonderful homestand, as he should. When you score fifty-seven points on twenty-nine shots I'd say you've had a pretty reasonable couple of days at the office. Which is good, because many offices in Washington didn't have power last week.
Anyway, Nuss tweeted that he'd be writing about Aden in the near future [obligatory plug for Cougar Sports Weekly here]. So rather than write about Faden' Aden (I don't know if you know this, guys, but he's also from Somalia), I figured I'd single out the unsung hero from the California game...
Yes, that Abe Lodwick. I've written about Abe on a few occasions, so much so that by writing this I get to punch another hole in my Abe Lodwick storyline punch card. When you reach ten Abe Lodwick stories you get a free Abe Lodwick with a purchase of an Abe Lodwick of greater or equal value.
Lodwick was key in the second half run for the Cougars yesterday, starting the half in the place of first-half starter Charlie Enquist. Abe hit a couple of key three-pointers on his way to 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting. He added four rebounds and two assists, versus only one turnover. But there's more to it than that...
One thing I've enjoyed doing this season is watching all the action away from the ball. I've started taking my eye off the ball... except of course when it's shot at the basket, to see if it goes in. Abe's early season injury problems have meant fewer minutes for the senior this season. However, when he's been on the court I've been consistently impressed with how hard he works without the ball, and how well he sets screens. Charlie Enquist's done a good job filling in for Lodwick, but Abe is one of the better screeners on this team. When Lodwick adds rebounds and the occasional three-pointer, I really don't see any way Ken Bone can keep him out of the starting lineup.
As for the threes, they've been an extremely pleasant surprise. Abe's shooting 44.8% for the season. This compared to a shockingly consistent 32.3% last year and 32.4% in his sophomore season. Abe's shooting issues have come as a surprise to yours truly, as well as anyone else who've seen Abe warmup or play in practice. Lodwick has great form from behind the arc... form that hasn't yet translated to points when placed under the speed of a live game.
The 2012 Abe is currently at career highs in offensive rating (111.2), eFG% (59.1), offensive rebounding percent (4.1), defensive rebounding percent (18.2) and assist rate (14.0). As an added bonus he's at a career low in turnover percent. Now, some of this may be skewed by the fact the Cougars - like all Pac-12 teams - play easier opponents at the start of the year versus the end. But remember, too, that Abe didn't get nearly as much minutes early on as he used to due to injury.
Is it sustainable? I have no idea. But there's an eerily similar case that makes me hopeful: Nikola Koprivica. Nik was a downright awful three-point shooter up until his senior season... even shooting at 13.8% in 2008. But he got it together, and was a force in his final year in Pullman. He shot 42.6% from three-point range, posted the 58th highest offensive rating in the entire nation, worked as a solid role player and became a surprisingly good rebounder considering his size.
It's unreasonable to expect Abe Lodwick to be as good as Koprivica was in 2010. The good news is, this year, he doesn't have to be. Faisal Aden, Reggie Moore and Brock Motum can be expected to shoulder more of the offensive load. All Abe has to be is the solid role player he was in the second half on Saturday. Set good screens, hold his own in the paint, hit a three or two, and he'll help this team out. Lodwick's already received credit from Ken Bone for his leadership - reminding his teammates that for some Cougars there is no next season.
Abe Lodwick is likely not going to go off for forty points in the next game. But what he can be when he's healthy is a perfect complimentary player for a team that needs strong play from its forwards. One thing seems clear to me from this last homestand: he should be very close to getting a spot back in the starting lineup.