The Washington State Cougars have played much better on offense since the return of leading scorer DaVonte Lacy two weeks ago in a win over Washington, but the Cougs have still dropped three in a row thanks to a porous defense. That defense will be tested once again on Saturday (4 p.m. PT, Pa-12 Networks) by a Stanford squad that put up 1.29 points per possession when the two teams met in Palo Alto--the highest number WSU has allowed in conference play.
There was a lot that went wrong for WSU on defense in that first match-up, but the most disappointing had to have been Stanford grabbing 35 percent of its own misses, well above the 29 percent it has grabbed in conference play. Rebounding is just about the only thing WSU does well on defense, especially with D.J. Shelton pulling down the fourth-best defensive rebound percentage in the country.
Stanford doesn't have one excellent offensive rebounder, in fact the players themselves only pulled down three of the nine offensive boards against WSU last time. Instead, the Cardinal put pressure on Cougs and forced six team rebounds (where the ball goes out of bounds off the defense). But still, it's encouraging that WSU wasn't letting Stanford get in and grab the ball, and that means the Cougs could easily lock down the defensive glass better the second time around.
But to do that, Stanford will have to miss some shots. It didn't do much of that last time, hitting 22 of 32 on 2-points and 40 percent of 3s. One thing WSU did do was keep Stanford below its average free throw rate, but that is likely more of a product of the Cougs just not being close enough to foul.
Offensively, WSU was awful in Palo Alto. It didn't shoot well from long distance, hitting just 6 of 19, and the Cougs shot just five free throws. The presence of Lacy should make both those numbers look better by the end of the day.
The Cardinal's Pac-12 opponents have done well from beyond the arc, hitting 40 percent. The Cougs have been lighting it up from three as of late, and that will again be needed to beat Stanford. Does Lacy have another eight three performance in him?
He may need to, because there is little reason to believe WSU will slow down Stanford.