The Washington State Cougars will see a miserable regular season come to a close when they host the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night (8 p.m. PT, Fox Sports 1).
Before the game, WSU will have its Senior Night festivities--which was no doubt the motivation behind the football-player slam dunk contest that precedes the ceremony. Charleston White, Marcellus Pippins, Tana Pritchard, Dylan Hanser, Drew Loftus and Vince Mayle are expected to show off their dunking skills before D.J. Shelton and Will DiIorio are honored.
DiIorio has had a rough senior season by any measure. His playing time has often been a point of contention for fans with WSU head coach Ken Bone, because DiIorio doesn't appear to fit into any position. He has center skills in a guard's body and that causes problems on both ends of the floor.
But DiIorio has still seen his fair share of minutes at WSU, including logging a career high 38 percent of possible minutes as a junior. That was certainly his best season as a Coug with an offensive rating was 113.8.
Two positive things stand out when thinking of DiIorio: First, early on in his freshman season (it may have been his first game), he caught the ball on the wing, blew by his man and flushed it with two hands. How often do you see a walk-on on flush it like that with authority?
Second is perhaps DiIorio's best game as a Coug, which came in one of the most satisfying wins of the Bone era. On this very same weekend last year, DiIorio logged 36 minutes, eight points and seven rebounds in an upset win over UCLA--the first over the Bruins in Pullman in 20 years.
Shelton had his own memorable moment in his first season as a Coug. The stakes were higher--depending on how you feel about the CBI--but Shelton came through with a game-saving block in a 67-66 win over Pittsburgh in Pullman. It's rare for a team of that stature to visit WSU, and Shelton ensured the Cougars would escape with a win.
And we can't write about Shelton without talking about the absolute monster he has become on the defensive glass. Surprisingly, Shelton wasn't much of a rebounder his first season with WSU--pulling down just 14 percent of opponent misses while he was on the floor.
There was marked improvement in Shelton's junior year, when he grabbed almost 22 percent of defensive rebound opportunities, but things have taken a turn for the ridiculous in his senior campaign.
Just three players in the country have grabbed defensive rebounds at a better rate than Shelton this season. He has nabbed an absurd 30.9 percent of possible rebounds on the defensive glass. For reference, WSU's opponents have rebounded 29 percent of their own misses--so it's been a better bet to say Shelton will grab the opposing teams miss than the five players on that opposing team. That's pretty dang awesome.
Of course, that dominance on the defensive glass only feeds into the belief that Shelton has been misused on the offensive end. In the last two years, he's been almost as likely to shoot a three than a two.
Frustrated Coug fans will likely only have two more games to watch Shelton hoist 3s, but they also have just two more games to appreciate the expert way at which Shelton attacks the defensive glass. Tonight will be last time Shelton does that on Friel Court, and it's a safe bet that he'll pull down plenty of boards in his Pullman finale.