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A prime example of a win is a win

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 7, 2008

Well, folks, welcome to Monday. Your team is still ranked No. 4 — although I’ll probably jump UCLA ahead of them on my blogpoll ballot, but that’s another story — and you’ve beaten Washington for the sixth straight time. That’s the good news.

Other good news includes the offensive domination of Aron Baynes, clutch shooting of Kyle Weaver and the return of Daven Harmeling to the tune of a pair of timely 3’s with a heavily taped shooting hand.

The bad news, of course, is that the Cougs hardly looked impressive in beating Huskies on the road. Don’t get me wrong — beating any conference opponent on the road is never anything to sneeze at. But this was hardly the Cougs’ best game and leaves plenty of room for improvement before making the Southern California road trip this weekend.

Much has been made of the Huskies’ supposedly improved defense, and I will give them some credit — they did hold the Cougs to 46.8 effective field goal percentage (what’s this?), a seemingly good accomplishment. But let’s be real: Most of that was due to the Cougars missing open 3-pointers, to the tune of just 4-for-14 for the game. If they make two or three more of those, as they are prone to do, this is a comfortable victory. As it was, the Cougs’ offensive efficiency (what’s this?) was still 99.7 — well below their season average (115.0), but only slightly below the national average (100.6).

Put simply, it was hardly the stifling effort many in the media have made it out to be. The Cougars’ low point total was due to missed 3’s and the fact that there were only 56 possessions in the game, third lowest of the season. If anything, give credit to the Huskies for staying within that slow pace and keeping the game close. It was an excellent strategy that their previous editions have steadfastly refused to embrace.

What would I like to see done better this weekend to have a good chance of getting a pair of victories on the road?

For one, I’d like to continue to plead with Derrick Low to be more aggressive on the offensive end. He passed up too many good shots on Saturday, and this team needs one thing from him on offense: To put the ball in the basket. He is just too unselfish. Let Kyle Weaver be the playmaker. Low just needs to look for his shot. If he ever really starts to believe that, this team will be scary. I really would like to see him taking 13-15 shots a game.

I also would like to continue to plead with Baynes to quit reaching for the ball. A prime example was his third foul. He had played stellar post defense on Jon Brockman, was straight up and down with his arms, then at the last second as the shot was going off, he moved his arm into Brockman as if to try and block the shot. He needs to remember two things:

  1. He is 6-foot-10. Straight up and down is good enough 98 percent of the time to alter a shot.
  2. He is developing a reputation as a whiner.

I’m starting to lose faith, though, that either of these things will change, since they’ve been the same for three years now. Imagine how not close this game would have been had Baynes been able to stay on the floor for 35 minutes instead of 28 because of foul trouble? I’ll try not to.

I know this post sounds a little pessimistic — mostly because as a fan, I of course want perfection every time out — but the truth is that this wasn’t a half-bad win against the Cougs’ first quality opponent in exactly a month. The Huskies played inspired ball, using defense that rode the momentum of the crowd and some early missed shots by their opponents. We just all know that we’re going to need a little more this weekend against a desperate 0-2 team and a UCLA team that will be looking to stake its claim to the Pac-10 title and reassert itself as one of the clear top four teams in the country.

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10 Responses to “A prime example of a win is a win”

  1. johnnycougar said

    Watching the Cal-UCLA game it became clear to me just how good UCLA is playing right now. I think there is almost no chance we pull out a win there without either of the things you mentioned happening (Low becoming more aggressive or Baynes staying out of foul trouble). I could see Cowgill or Weaver having a big game in Westwood as they may give UCLA some matchup problems. Baynes may actually end up winning the battle with Kevin Love but to me is more likely to foul out than dominate.
    I think we’ll need a little more against USC than we did on Saturday but not a lot more. Put Weaver on Mayo and we’ll stifle their offense. Of course, we’ve also seen USC lose when Mayo ballhogged his way to 34 (ish) points, so maybe put Low on him on the offchance that he’d get fired up and start a shootout a la the Oregon game last year.

  2. Longball said

    I agree that Low needs to get into things on the offensive end. I find myself actually forgetting he’s on the team for long stretches. I certainly didnt expect this after hearing all summer how he was the hero of the Pan Am games, etc. Another thing that is frustrating is that we moved him away from the point for the express purpose of having him become a pure scorer for us, but he hasnt embraced that roll at all this year. It was especially glaring when early in the game we were frigid 0-10 from 3 point land and Low had barely attempted a shot. THAT is when he needs to be a senior leader and do something.

    As far as Baynes “whining” i think that is just going to be his MO. I think he has it about as bottled up as its going to get and he doesnt rack up tech fouls. But the refs in the league will tire of it. I think its a byproduct of his particular type of competativeness so i am more than willing to tolerate it. The guy is a 6-10 280 lb ANGRY beast in the middle and i love it. I think any game he doesnt foul out of and is available down the stretch to shoot free throws is probably a W for the Cougs. I cant say enough about that kids fire and effort on both ends, coupled with his coolness at the line.

    Another factor keeping this game close was the ineffectiveness of Rochestie. He clearly was not feeling well and pressed a lot. Again, i think his competativeness is what had him pressing to make plays that just werent there. Overton was giving him fits defensively and if Romar learned anything from that game, i think it should be that overton and morris are much better than Dentmon. But thats for them to figure out and i hope they dont.

    I was laughing out loud at the anouncers unrelenting praise of the Husky defensive effort. On the contrary, it was the Cougs who, as always, imposed their style and pace on the game and won with defense. Just look at the turnover numbers and its all right there. The dawgs had twice as many turnovers and most of them were steals, or in other words, forced by the cougs defense. the only part of the game where the dawgs outplayed the cougs was rebounding, and admittedly at times in the 2nd half it was almost enough to be fatal. But Jon Brockman is a warrior and is going to single handedly win a lot of rebound battles for the Dawgs. Overcoming that by winning just about every other battle on the court was what we needed to do and the boys got it done.

    So far all 3 of our “quality” wins were on extremely hostile courts (even Baylor fans were saying they had the most raucous crowd they had seen) against teams that were absolutely as fired up as they could possibly be to beat us. It will be nice to once in a while just come out and put a good team away early and keep them there, like top 5 teams are usually expected to do. But as we learned last year, that just isnt how this team wins. So malox sales are through the roof on the Palouse, but as long as we keep winning i’ll do my best not to complain too much about HOW we win.

    GO COUGS!!!

    here endeth the comment

  3. Nuss said

    I think any game he doesnt foul out of and is available down the stretch to shoot free throws is probably a W for the Cougs.

    The problem is, he often does miss long periods of time down the stretch, and he often isn’t in there to shoot free throws. It will come back to bite us — possibly on Thursday or Saturday against Gibson or Love.

    I, too, love the intensity — I’m glad for Baynes’ mean streak. The problem is that he acts like he never fouls anyone, and that wears thin with officials REALLY fast, especially at the college level. Replays show that most of the time he is fouling guys, and when he’s not fouling them, he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt. That is a problem.

  4. Longball said

    True, and now that we are in the Pac-10 schedule and seeing the same refs every week, he could quickly become a marked man. I think as our only real big man, he is going to be in foul trouble no matter what. we just have to manage his minutes so he is in the game with 5 minutes to go.

  5. westsidecougar1 said

    I thought Baynes got hammered several times with no foul called against the dogs. I can see why he gets angry about being called for some of the stuff he does. The dogs got away with some calls that they wouldn’t have on the road. Then again, they usually do and that is part of the reason they are difficult to beat in Hec Ed.

  6. drpezz said

    I think the Cougs deserve a little slack as well, primarily though for having such a long sequence of days without solid opponents. In the month before the UW game (since Gonzaga), they’ve had no truly stiff competitor and have not been forced to play their best.

    (Any team with A & T in the name should be questioned as a PAC-10 opponent anyway, in my humble opinion. Maybe WSU needs to start doing the one thing I admire about Gonzaga, and that’s playing stiff competition outside their conference.)

    I don’t think this bodes well for this weekend, but the Cougs have time to improve.

    Besides, I’d like to see them peak as tourney time begins.

  7. Michelle said

    To be honest, I thought UCLA showed some weakness and a few mental lapses in their games against the Nor Cal schools. Both Cal and Stanford were able to hang with UCLA the first half, capitalizing on UCLA’s minor defensive breakdowns(what?!), that’s why I think the scores were close at some points. But that’s also the reason they ended up dominating the second half of both those games, Ben adjusts well after the half…just like our beloved TB. If we are as good as we think we are (well at least as good as I think we are) then I think we have a shot on Saturday…especially if Kevin Love decides to attempt shots from beyond the arc, think Baynes doing the same thing

  8. Longball said

    With so much focus on Saturdays tilt, i am starting to get nervous for Thusday’s game. SC is starved for a win and at home.

  9. Nuss said

    Honestly, I think it’s us that’s focusing so much on UCLA. This team has proven itself to be professional and humble enough not to overlook any opponent on the road.

  10. Peter said

    Forgot to say congrats on the win. I knew the shots would start falling for WSU eventually in the second half. Our bball team is starting to embody our football team. Lead @ half, blow it in the end.

    Although more of it had to do with the opponent simply outplaying us, more than us just straight up blowing it (although we did that too).

    Good luck at UCLA

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