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Quick observations on last night's win

Enough football! Let's talk hoops!

I don't have a lot of time to compose flowery prose, but I did want to pass along some of my initial thoughts after last night. Here you go, bullet style:

  • Like most of you, last night was the first time I've gotten a chance to watch this team. My initial impression brought to mind a certain former coach of the Arizona Cardinals. We're athletic in the backcourt. We're small up front. We have a new coach, so the offense looks awkward at times. We're young, so the effort is inconsistent. These are all things we expected, and all things we saw last night.
  • Klay Thompson is a different player than he was last year -- and that is a fantastic thing. You might think I'm talking about that improved free throw rate. I'm not. While that is all well and good, I'm just talking about his attitude. He's got a completely different demeanor than he did last year, when there were times where he had to be begged to shoot instead of deferring to Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes. He's carrying himself like a guy who not only knows he's the team's best scorer, but as a guy who knows he's one of the premier scorers in the conference, if not the country. He looks like a guy who knows he's the best player on the floor. Tremendous confidence. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This team will go as far as Klay can carry it.

    The downside to that, of course, is that there were times last night where I felt like he was taking some rushed shots and forcing things a bit. I'm guessing that's part of Ken Bone's strategy to get Thompson to see himself as a scorer. Once that transformation is complete, expect some of that to get reigned in. Personally, I'd rather have my best scorer shooting too much than too little, and Thompson is far too smart of a player to continue to have such poor shot selection.
  • Yup, Reggie Moore is good. I think what I liked the most is that he generally wasn't spectacular -- just steady while making the occasional nice play. And oh by the way, he played 36 minutes. If he plays with this kind of a steady hand all year, while blossoming into a reliable scorer, this team could end up being better than I thought.
  • Speaking of those minutes, count me among those a little perplexed by Bone's rotation last night. I was all set to write a post on Bone's history of minute distribution at PSU, which essentially is that he used a lot of bodies for no more than 65 to 70 percent of the minutes on any given night. That held to form on Friday, but then last night blew that whole thing out of the water. Last night was classic Bennett: Three guys playing high minutes, five guys playing meaningful minutes, and a couple of guys getting token minutes. Perhaps this was just a one-night strategy, but count me among those surprised by how much he relied on Thompson, Moore and DeAngelo Casto last night.
  • Casto is fantastic. He's definitely beefed up, and has obviously worked to develop some offensive moves. However, I wonder if he can keep up that kind of energy all year long -- only five rebounds last night after a big night on Friday. There's obviously no way to know if there's any kind of causation there, but it sure seemed like he was slowing down on the glass as the game wore on. And, to be honest, it's not the minutes I'm worried about, per se; it's the minutes as the team's primary big man, with the other team's best big man leaning on him night after night.
  • The rest of the frontcourt is as big of a question mark as I feared. James Watson looked OK I guess, and Abe Lodwick's energy was impressive. But where was Brock Motum? And Charlie Enquist is doing nothing to dispel the idea that he's merely keeping his scholarship warm for someone with more talent. The lack of production out of anyone not named Casto was stunning. Perhaps it had something to do with the matchup that Bone elected to go small almost the entire night, but I fear that it's because our bigs are even worse than we imagined. 
  • Good to see the defense be incredibly effective in spurts. The pack is still in full force, even if it's been modified ever so slightly to increase ball pressure on the perimeter. There were a number of breakdowns along the way, which would probably lead some to question whether the same commitment to defense will be there this year. It's a sound question, but I'll reserve judgment on it until we see some more games. I'll go ahead and chalk up some of those open 3s where they didn't close out to immaturity at this point.
  • To close, I thought last night was the perfect microcosm of what we're going to see this season. There were spots where they looked really, really good. I was satisfied with the way they were playing early, cold shooting and questionable shot selection notwithstanding. The effort was good, even if the execution wasn't. Soon, they turned up the heat defensively, and closed the first half on a run. They began the second half in much the same way, running the lead to 15 points with 12 minutes to go.

    But then ... youth kicked in. The Eags, full of veterans and trying to make a name for themselves, kept chopping wood. The Cougs, full of freshmen and sophomores, started to coast. And it nearly cost them. The great news is that it didn't cost them -- they still won -- but Bone will have plenty of teaching points as ammunition for practice this week. That's really the best of both worlds when you've got a young team.