There was an over/under amongst the authors throughout yesterday when I announced I was going to pay for the internet feed to watch this game for when I would regret investing a Friday night and actual money on watching WSU/UTEP. The answer was clearly "while I was entering in my credit card information."
You’ve likely read the local recaps, and I will echo that nagging thought in your head: yes, it was that bad. Yes, it probably should’ve been worse, saved by some really inefficient Tim Floyd offense and no, I don’t see it getting much better by February.
The Ominous Stat that is Absolutely as Bad as it Sounded
WSU gave up 17 offensive rebounds to the Miners. And probably could’ve had more if some didn’t get tipped out of bounds. The Cougar post players actually did a pretty efficient job of contesting shots and not giving up anything easy. But those putbacks….oh those putbacks…..are going to be there all season long. Any coach watching film of this game will learn that crashing the offensive glass will likely lead to an easy forty minutes and ample time for your bench to get floor time.
The Ominous Stat that is Probably Not as Bad as it Sounded (But It Might!)
Those 22 turnovers. Of those 22, I don’t have an official stat here, but I’m guessing between 10 and 12 of those were travelling calls. That seems somewhat fluky to me. That’s not to say the Cougs did a stellar job of taking care of the ball otherwise, but I have a hard time believing we’re going to be getting double-digit travelling calls going forward. Outside of Ny Redding dribbling directly into a trap a couple times, I didn’t see anything worrisome or at least totally egregious considering it’s the first game of the season.
Newcomer Who Impressed Me the Most
The aforementioned Redding looks like he may be a serviceable Pac-12 player one game into the season. He had a knack for finding lanes in the Miner defense last night where no other player on the team was finding success. He’s also very quick and fearless with the basketball, which will save him as many times as it will make you scratch your head when he trips over the half court line. I also look forward to the minor twitter explosion when Coug fans see his jump shot form for the first time. Aaron Cheatum appears to be the Junior Longrus clone we expected him to be, and Trevor Dunbar really didn’t get enough run for any sort of evaluation.
Returning Player Who Impressed Me the Most
Actually Que Johnson played pretty well. The lone half-lit bulb in an otherwise pitch-black sky.
My Stream of Consciousness Play-by-Play
Jordan Railey is still Jordan Railey— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
In the first four minutes, WSU got off two shots. Both missed dunks.— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
WSU just turns the ball over when they had a 4 on 1 fast break— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
Junior just fouled a guy taking a 25 footer— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
Nearing halftime WSU has as many traveling violations as they do field goals.— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
Cougs make two shots in a row and start looking for locusts.— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
And then UTEP gets a dunk/Longrus turnover/UTEP dunk— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
Redding just tripped over the half court line.— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
Cheatum with two turnovers in twelve seconds— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
If you miss DJ jacking ill advised threes, I have good news: Josh Hawkinson is here.— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
"HOLD THIS SO CALLED POWER SCHOOL IN THE 40S!!!" - coked out UTEP color guy— Kyle Sherwood (@BigWoodWSU) November 15, 2014
If WSU Plays Every Game Like This One
Well, it really looks like it’s another year of having players capable of putting the ball in the basket, yet shoot 30% from the field. Last season, WSU had no chance of staying in games unless they received an inexplicably white-hot game from DaVonte Lacy, Johnson or Dexter Kernich-Drew, and barring a major turnaround this month, it appears this season will be more of the same. Only now we do not have D.J. Shelton to chase down rebounds anymore.
Moral Victory of Game 1
I thought the interior defense actually played pretty well, with post players Hawkinson, Cheatum and Longrus contesting pretty much every shot down low, but I felt the main difference was wing players Johnson and Lacy not getting fooled by rotations leaving players by themselves under the basket, a problem that plagued the team the entire 2013-14 season. If game 1 is any indication, rotations were a primary focus in the offseason. Of course all of those contested shots don’t mean anything if you can’t rebound the basketball but we’re thinking positively here.
Unless the offense figures out something coherent and the Cougs start pulling down some rebounds, this will likely be a catastrophically long season. It’s hard to make a game 1 conclusion against a UTEP team whose coach emphasizes defense above all else. Their defense looked like it was in midseason form, while the Cougar offense looked like, well, it played its first game of the season under a new coach. That could mean we might see a completely different team on Monday at TCU. But my hunch is this game probably would’ve had a differential in the 30s if UTEP’s offense were clicking. If last night was any indication, year one of #TheProcess is going to be long, painful and with little reprieve.