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OPEN HOOPS GAME THREAD: No. 24 Baylor at WSU

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Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2008, 8:30 PM PST
Friel Court

PROBABLE STARTERS

WSU - No. 11 Pomeroy Vitals Baylor - No. 20 Pomeroy Vitals
G Taylor Rochestie (Sr.) 6-1/193 G Tweety Carter (Jr.)
5-11/185
G Klay Thompson (Fr.) 6-6/187 G Curtis Jerrells (Sr.)
6-1/205
G Nikola Koprivica (Jr.) 6-6/217 G Henry Dugat (Sr.)
6-0/173
F Daven Harmeling (Sr.) 6-7/227 F Kevin Rogers (Sr.)
6-9/250
C Aron Baynes (Sr.) 6-10/250 C Mamadou Diene (Sr.)
7-1/255

Nuss here.

I feel bad that I haven't had more time to write this week, because this really is a game that deserved to much more attention. Baylor is a heck of a team. They're kind of what the Cougars were last year: Very experienced and looking for that real breakthrough year after going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in many years.

The Bears are led by Curtis Jerrells, a legit All-American candidate. He's big, fast and strong, and has led Baylor in minutes, points and assists in each of the past two years. He'll beat you both inside and outside, and containing him will be the Cougs' top priority. All of his averages are up this year, except for rebounds, and it's clear that he wants to lead the program to that next level before he heads off to the NBA.

Baylor has lost only one game this season, last Sunday to Wake Forest. That came on the heels of a win over Arizona State, in which the Bears picked apart the Sun Devils zone defense for 56 (!) second half points to win a game that was tied at halftime.

The Bears are incredibly athletic on the perimeter, and want to use that to get into the heart of a defense, where they can either finish (they're 11th nationally in 2-point field goal percentage) or get to the line (33rd in free throw percentage). Although the Cougs' usual top priority on defense is packing it and keeping opponents out of the lane, I'll bet there will be an extra emphasis on it tonight, meaning there might be a few more open 3's than what Bennett would typically like to see. How Baylor shoots on those opportunities will go a long way towards deciding how effective the Bears are on offense. Knock a few of those down, the inside loosens up ... and it could be a long night.

Defensively, Baylor is OK, but not exceptional. They've shown an ability to hold their three legitimate opponents (Providence, ASU and WF) under their season averages in efficiency, but those season averages are inflated for just about everyone right now. And, those three contests came at a neutral site. It'll be interesting what their defense is able to do on the road -- the Bears' first contest in a hostile environment.

One last thing: Baylor probably will play with a focus and intensity the Cougs have yet to see this year, and I hope our freshmen are ready. I can guarantee these Bears have not forgotten how No. 6 WSU went into Waco last year and absolutely stole a victory from them as Jerrells (cramps) couldn't finish the game while Derrick Low went absolutely nuts from 3-point range. They will absolutely have payback on their minds.

Is this game a must-win for the Cougs? Not really. But how often do you have an opportunity to pick up a win against a ranked non-conference opponent? Tonight represents a pretty good opportunity, and it sure would be nice to see the Cougs take it -- especially with No. 5 Gonzaga waiting on Wednesday.

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