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Tuesday, Nov 25, 2008, 7:00 PM PST
Friel Court


WSU (*used redsirt) Vitals Sac State(*used redsirt) Vitals
G Taylor Rochestie (Sr.*) 6-1/193 G Frank Turner (Jr.)
G Klay Thompson (Fr.) 6-6/187 G Robert Goldsberry (So.)
G Nikola Koprivica (Jr.) 6-6/217 G Elton Frazier (So.)
F Daven Harmeling (Sr.*) 6-7/227 F Rishawn Johnson (So.)
C Aron Baynes (Sr.) 6-10/250 C Chris Gadley (Jr.*)

Without a doubt, Canisius will be the stiffest test WSU has faced this year, but that's not saying a whole lot. The Griffs are rated No. 132 by Ken Pomeroy, the highest of any opponent so far, but take that for what it's worth -- the Cougs are still No. 4 in Pomeroy's rating system, and Utah is No. 1.

No, that's not why this is the stiffest test so far. The actual reason is simple: Because Canisius features two guys who could, without question, play in the Pac-10 from an athletic standpoint, and will consequently present a defensive challenge unlike anything the Cougs have faced this year.

It starts with 6-foot-9, 320-pound -- that is not a typo -- center Chris Gadley. I've never seen Gadley play, but everything I read on him is that he is not the lumbering frontcourt player that his weight would suggest. He's apparently surprisingly quick with his feet, and will even step out for the occasional 3-pointer:

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2008 - Chris Gadley 3 25.0 6.0 11.7 51.4 1.7 2.7 62.5 3.7 5.0 73.3 3.0 6.7 9.7 1.3 2.0 0.0 1.3 1.7 17.3

Gadley should present a unique opportunity for us to see just how much progress Aron Baynes has made this year. For the first time, the Cougs are playing an opponent with a big man that can physically match up with Baynes. If he is able to contain Gadley without getting into a lot of foul trouble, that would be a heck of a nice thing to see heading into that matchup with Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State (even though Varnado is a totally different kind of player).

While I'm curious about the individual matchup, the actual key to containing Gadley will be the team defense. Canisius is not a particularly good shooting team -- 44.6 eFG%, 254th nationally -- so expect WSU to deny the post and collapse hard on Gadley when he does get the ball, knowing the 3-pointer just isn't much of a threat.

The other legitimate player Canisius features is junior point guard Frank Turner. He plays a huge number of minutes (84.4% in 2007-08) and scores points, but he's not a particularly efficient scorer -- he used more than 25 percent of the Griffs' possessions but posted just a 90.2 offensive rating. That basically means he takes a lot of shots without scoring enough points to justify it.

While Turner will pile up some points, where he really has done his damage in the past is as a distributor; he ranked 43rd nationally last year in assist rate (33.3). However, he's off to a terrible start this year in that regard, down to just 19.4 this year. He will also turn the ball over plenty -- part of the reason the Griffs give the ball away in one out of every four possessions, ranking 314th in turnover percentage -- so look for the Cougs to pressure Turner a lot.

On offense, WSU is in for its biggest challenge. Canisius' high Pomeroy rating is mostly on the strength of its defense, which has been solid so far. A big key for the Griffs has been keeping opponents off the offensive glass, which they've done with great effectiveness, save for the Buffalo game. They've held their opponents to low effective field goal percentages, but for the most part, their opponents have shot poorly against all their opponents, so I don't know how much that has to do with the Griffs.

Look for this to be yet another easy victory as the Cougs bring this homestand to a close.