|WSU (*used redsirt)||Vitals||MVSU||Vitals|
|G||Reggie Moore (Fr.)||6-1/178||G|| Glen Dean (Fr.) ||5-10/170|
|G||Klay Thompson (So.)||6-6/200||G||Kevin Winford (Fr.) ||5-11/170|
|G||Marcus Capers (So.)||6-4/180||G|| Alden Gibbs (Jr.) ||6-3/185|
|F||Abe Lodwick (So.*)||6-7/200||F||Matthew Brunell (Sr)||6-8/230|
|F||DeAngelo Casto (So.)||6-8/231||F||Brandon Moore (Sr.) ||6-9/240|
For the last six years under the Bennetts, Cougar fans heard time after time the story of a slow paced team clashing with a running team and how that would impact the flow of the game. Most of the time the Cougars were able to impose their style and limit the number of possessions in the game. This time around, the tables have turned.
Over the last two years under head coach Kirk Earlywine, Eastern Washington has played at a tempo around 65 possessions a game. Their first game this season against the University of Portland saw 63 possessions. Their average last year of 64.8 put them at 241st in the country. They are not a team that is going to try and run the ball up and down the floor.
Ken Bone has been vocal about his desire for the Cougars to get more shots out of a game. He felt the Cougs passed too much in the opener, and that was a game in which Washington State held the ball 73 times. It appears that Kenneth wants the team playing somewhere in the mid-70s.
So we ask the same question again: Which style will prevail?
The answer that Cougar fans have learned is most often true is the slow down team. Why? Because the Cougs could slow down anybody. They even made ultra-fast North Carolina play a game at 66 possessions in the tournament a few years ago. So will Eastern be able to do the same (to a lesser degree) to Washington State?
Probably. Something Eastern has in common with those Bennett teams is a lack of offensive rebounding. Last year, the Eagles ranked 262nd in offensive rebounding percentage. My guess is that they give up the opportunity for the offensive board to stop the other team from running down the floor, which Coug fans are very used to.
So Ken Bone might once again be lamenting a slower-than-usual pace after this one. Of course, he should be expecting it because he faced these guys twice a year during his time at Portland State. If you want some hope that the Cougs will push the tempo anyway, look no farther than Eastern's matchup with UW last season. It was played at 74 possessions (right at UW's average of 73.9). That was EWU second fastest game of the year.
Some players to watch:
Benny Valentine, EWU: Although coming off the bench in the first game of the season, Benny is the team's go-to-guy. He took 32.8% of the shots when he was on the floor last year and it was more the same in the opener as he jacked up 12 shots in only 26 minutes of playing time. He won't be hard to miss, he stands at just 5-7, but is tremendously athletic and reportedly can dunk with two hands pretty easily.
Brandon Moore, EWU: A big body, with the ability to draw fouls and get to the line. Posted a very solid 47.3 Free throw rate last season and was able to draw 5.0 fouls per forty minutes (watch out DeAngelo!). He is also a very good rebounder on both ends of the floor, ranking in the top 200 nationally in defensive and offensive rebounding percentage last season.
Klay Thompson, WSU: What? Of course you put Klay in here Craig! He is our best player! Well, I put him in here specifically because he will tower over the Eagles' guards. It would please me greatly to see him take advantage of this by going to the inside to use his height, drawing fouls and shooting free throws in the process.
Eastern was not a very good team last year (ranked 257 by kenpom). They returned their leading scorers in Brandon Moore and Benny Valentine, but also lost their most effective defensive rebounder. They are young in the backcourt, just like the Cougs. Washington State should cruise in this one, but it will not be as easy as the MVSU game. Brandon Moore will make sure the Cougs are not grabbing 63% of the offensive rebounding opportunities, which was key on a night when Wazzu was finding it difficult to hit a jump shot. If the Cougs are able to rebound well , stay out of foul trouble in the frontcourt, and capitalize on some of that length in the backcourt, then it should be a happy night.
Go Cougs! Join the discussion in the game thread now!