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GAME THREAD: No. 8 WSU (7-0) at No. 17 Gonzaga (7-1)

Posted by Jeff Nusser on December 5, 2007

McCarthy Athletic Center (Spokane), 8 p.m. PT
TV: ESPNU

Well I had this really big writeup planning the game planned, but life got in the way today, so here are some quick thoughts on the game to kick off this game thread.

First, as I mentioned below, I think the Cougs need this game worse than Gonzaga does, but I fear that the opening of the game will actually reflect the opposite, based off the way WSU has opened games this year and the way the Zags typically play at home. This is not a game where the Cougs will want to get into one of those first half holes. The raucous home court combined with the most talented opponent they’ve played won’t make a Baylor-esque comeback very likely.

The great news for you, fans, is that while Gonzaga is a talented squad, the Zags’ talent is not concentrated in the area that gives the Cougs the most trouble — namely 3-point shooting. If Josh Heytvelt were healthy, that might be a different story, but he’s still out for a while. And while Jeremy Pargo (right) and Matt Bouldin are very good guards, neither chucks it up with abandon from long range. Bouldin is a serviceable shooter out there (44 percent) but he averages less than four 3 attempts a game, and Pargo is hitting just 21 percent of his 3’s. Austin Daye, 5-for-10 for the season, is the only other Bulldog over 40 percent.

Looking for more good news? The one team Gonzaga lost to, Texas Tech, is the one team on the Zags’ schedule that plays a similar hard-nosed man-to-man defensive scheme. They had 19 turnovers in that game in getting soundly beaten by the Red Raiders.

The key to the game might well be who wins the battle of the fouls. Both teams make trips to the foul line a regular habit, as both are in the top 15 in the country in free throw rate (what’s that?). However, foul trouble has plagued the Cougs lately, and their depth does not match Gonzaga’s. A tightly-called game is advantage Gonzaga, because if it’s called tight, it’s hard to imagine the Cougs will get the benefit of the doubt in that zoo they call K2.

My take on the outcome? Because Gonzaga can slow it down or run, this won’t be an impose-their-will kind of game for the Cougs. What it will come down to is: 1) Can Gonzaga make WSU pay for its pack defense by hitting the limited 3s it will take? and 2) Can Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill stay on the floor — especially staying away from adrenaline fouls in the early moments of the contest?

I look for a game in the high-60s — one that the Cougs will win, 69-67.

I’ll be over at a friend’s house watching the game — thank goodness for his satellite provider! — so I think I’ll be able to get on the computer for a few moments here and there to post some thoughts. Please leave yours as you watch the game if not at a bar!

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5 Responses to “GAME THREAD: No. 8 WSU (7-0) at No. 17 Gonzaga (7-1)”

  1. Longball said

    What a win for the Cougs, playing against the tough Zags, their awesome student section and the refs, yikes! I was at the Specatator in Seattle and even some of the Zag fans near me were applauding the efforts of the stripes on their behalf. But, still, an amazing effort to hold them to such a low score for their 2nd loss EVER in K2. Mighty fine win for the Cougs, and did they ever trail? One question mark… where are you Derek Low? We need you come Pac-10 play! And some 3 pointers from Harmeling would be nice. sometime. whenever. BUT in the meantime, tough, hard fought road wins the last 2 weeks. I think this rivalry is the most exciting development in Coug sports since we changed our colors from pink and blue to CRIMSON AND GRAY! (1910?) Ok, where can i get my poster of Aaron Baynes bleeding from the head like he went 12 rounds with Holyfield? That accent is for real, he is 100% Ausie baby! Krikey! Thrill of the night was probably sharing the big win with former Coug football tough guy and Pullman Greyhound legend, Seren Mareng who was buying tequilla shots so i better get started sleeping this one off about now.

    Go Cougs!

  2. Sedihawk said

    Here’s the Baynes pic you were hoping to find:

    OY! Think of the monster he’d be in Aussie rules football.

  3. Nuss said

    I’d settle for him being a monster on the basketball court that doesn’t get into foul trouble … 😉

  4. Ptowncoug said

    What is Serign doing nowadays? Last I heard he was talking med school. Grandpa, Dad and bro-in-law saw the game at Beasley. Said it was a lot of fun. Great idea by Wazzu. Continue to create addicts by giving students every opp to watch the Cougs. By the way, the only time we trailed was 3-0. I think that goes to show how dominating we were in that game.
    I’m not overly concerned about the O. In low scoring games, we have a tendency to play a little tight, but we score when needed (again as reflected by never giving up the lead) which is all the really matters.
    Is just me are teams not shooting the 3 as well as against us. Because of our D, the 3-ball is our weakness, but it just doesn’t seem like teams are doing very well from the 3-pt line.

  5. Nuss said

    You know, that’s actually not true — teams have been more or less killing us from 3-point range. At least the ones who have been able to stay in games against us. Our 3-point defense is 108th overall, which seems pretty good. But like a lot of our overall defensive stats right now, that’s pretty skewed by some really awful performances by some of the weaker teams on our schedule.

    For example:
    • Boise State shot 7-for-18, 38.9 percent
    • Montana shot 8-for-18, 44.4 percent
    • Air Force shot 9-for-23, 39.1 percent
    • Baylor shot 7-for-21, 33.3 percent (although I believe that percentage was much higher in the first half)

    The point is that we’re still pretty vulnerable to teams that can shoot well from beyond the arc. As I said in the preview, Gonzaga is not that team. The Zags struggled more than they normally do from out there, but they just aren’t much of a 3-point team without Heytvelt, anyway. Some of those 3’s they missed were pretty wide open.

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