Washington State hosts Washington today at 5pm for Senior Night at Friel Court. This is the third time in the last five seasons that the Cougars have played the Huskies for their final conference home game.
Senior night has seen some classic WSU games in recent years. Last year, the Cougs nearly took down a tournament-bound UCLA squad without Klay Thompson or Reggie Moore. The match-up with the James Harden-led Arizona State Sun Devils in 2009 was a story straight out of a Hollywood script. 2007 against USC saw a breakout game for sophomore Aron Baynes and a double-overtime victory for the Cougs aided by a Lodrick Stewart missed free throw in the first OT (I don't think I've ever heard Beasley as loud as when that shot hit front-iron and fell off).
Rochestie's shot probably can't be topped in terms of goosebump inducing, I'm-not-crying-I-just-have-something-in-both-of-my-eyes excitement, but the most intense Senior night atmosphere, and one of the most intense sporting events I've ever attended, has to be the 2008 game against Washington.
I graduated in 2007, so I was actually in school for the first three years of the Kyle Weaver/Derrick Low/Robbie Cowgill era. After the schedule came out before the 2007-2008 season I knew that it would be absolutely imperative to attend the Senior night game against UW. I dubbed this "The Senior Night." It had extra meaning. This was the group that brought the Cougs from Pac-10 laughingstock to conference title contender.
This was my last game in the student section (I still had a sports pass from my student teaching) and it was a great way to go out. WSU survived UW in (once again) double overtime thanks to a couple last-second game-tying buckets from Cowgill at the end of regulation and OT (you can see the first of those and the reaction from my sister and I at the 1:40 mark here).
This group of seniors hasn't been as successful as that 2008 squad, but in the context of WSU basketball history, their trip to the NIT Final Four was impressive. Had two of their teammates used their last year of eligibility this season, they very well could be preparing for an NCAA Tournament run.
Offense and Defense previews after the jump.OFFENSE
Same as we've been doing throughout the second half of the conference slate, looking back at the preview from the first game and taking a look at how it turned out. From before:
The UW offense starts and ends most often with freshman Tony Wroten. Wroten has the ability to control a game on offense for long stretches and he also has the tendency to melt down in a series of turnovers and poor shot selection. He is using 34.4% of the Huskies' possessions while he is on the floor and overall that has been a negative with his 95.4 offensive rating (100 is average and the Huskies are 107.4 as a team).
Not much has changed. Wroten is still inefficiently using a high number of possessions. His usage has went down slightly as Terrence Ross seems to have finally taken it upon himself to create instead of playing a secondary role.
Ross has been excellent this season with a 110 offensive rating. One real knock on his game has been his lack of aggressiveness and that shows in his numbers. He shoots only 21 free throws per 100 field goal attempts, which is well-below average, especially for a guy considered to be an NBA talent.
Coug fans saw some of that talent in the first meeting, as Ross led a Husky comeback (well, played second fiddle to Lorenzo Romar I suppose) while hitting an array of difficult long-range shots. If he goes off like that again, there isn't really much WSU can do. When a guy is hitting 25-footers with a hand in the face, there is a little to do but tip your cap to him.
In addition to Ross on the outside, UW will also have C.J. Wilcox for tonight's game. Wilcox sat out the first time. He is the Huskies' most dangerous outside shooter, hitting 41% of his threes this season.
WSU was struggling mightily early with offensive rebounding, and that culminated in the first match-up. From that preview:
As is typical with Lorenzo Romar's UW teams, they are relentless in attacking the offensive glass. Washington currently ranks 29th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of available rebounds they grab). 7-foot, 260-pound Aziz N'Diaye will be tough for WSU to box out. Desmond Simmons and Darnell Gant also do well in crashing the offensive boards. The WSU bigs will have their work cut out for them, especially if Ken Bone sticks with the zone he has been using in Pac-12 play.
The Huskies are up to 19th in offensive rebounding percentage now, so it is not going to get any easier. UW grabbed 52.4% of the o-board opportunities last time. This allowed them to stay close to WSU when their shots weren't falling, otherwise the Cougs may have won easily.
Wazzu has improved on the glass and it will be important for them to do better in that area. Expect Ross to be looking for his shot from the onset of the game, rather than laying back until the second half. He is a tough match-up at an athletic 6-6. but limiting his effectiveness will be key.
Overall, they have done well limiting opponents to a 47% effective field goal percentage, but that number has not been quite as impressive against the better offensive teams on their schedule. They had some excellent games against the likes of Cal State-Northridge (26%). Houston Baptist (39%), Portland (37%), and Utah (41%). However, St. Louis (61%), South Dakota State (65%), Duke (52%), and Colorado (56%) were able to post much better numbers. WSU has been a good shooting team this season, and they may be able to take advantage here if they take care of the ball.
The Cougars shot well from inside the arc in Seattle, led by 7-11 from Brock Motum. The problem was they also took 24 threes, knocking down just 7. Washington's zone denied Motum the ball for the last ten minutes, and the team's offensive effectiveness plummeted. Recently Brock has been expanding his game to come and get the ball out at the three-point line and has been shooting (and making) more threes, so denying him the ball may be a much tougher task this time around.
As a group, Washington does not force turnovers at a high rate. They are just 242nd nationally in defensive turnover percentage. Wroten does make an impact in steals, as he is in the top 100 in steal percentage, but as team they do not steal the ball much. If WSU can avoid making their own mistakes, something Reggie Moore has improved in as the season has went along, they should be expected to have a limited number of turnovers. Remember that this game will be played at a higher number of possessions, so the final tally may look worse. That is why it will be important to look at the percentage.
WSU did take care of the ball well, giving it away on just 18% of possessions. They will need to do this again. Their last four games they've not turned it over much and Reggie Moore's turnover percentage has been steadily dropping.
The Cougs have been on a roll offensively of late, as they've had their four best offensive performances in the last four games. They'll need to continue that streak to come up with a victory today.
Kenpom has this game as a tossup, with WSU predicted to win 74-73. Should be a close game. Can the Cougs create some Senior Night magic one more time?