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Archive for February 7th, 2008

All you need to know about tonight

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 7, 2008

With one minute to go in the game …

UCLA: 27 rebounds, 12 offensive rebounds, 10 second-chance points.

WSU: 11 rebounds, 2 offensive, 2 second-chance points.

Rare is it that further analysis is unnecessary, but this is one of those cases. The offense was probably good enough to win, but the defense — which includes rebounding, as Marques Johnson pointed out on 52 different occasions tonight — was not.



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Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 7, 2008

Bruins (20-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-10) at Cougars (17-4, 5-4)

Beasley Coliseum (Pullman, Wash.), 7:30 p.m. PT

A week ago, this looked like it could be another showdown for first place in the Pac-10. It’s still a big game for WSU, but now it is classified as such because it presents a tremendous opportunity for the Cougs to prove their relevance both in the conference and on the national stage once again.

We all know what happened in the first matchup, so there’s not much need to rehash that. The Cougs came out flat and tense and UCLA rode the momentum of a fast start and a raucous crowd to knock off then-No. 4 WSU.

The halfway point is one of the most fascinating times in the Pac-10 schedule every year. There are no secrets anymore between these teams, and this is where great coaching often can show up. These players are intimately familiar with each other, and the tweaks in strategy coming from the bench can make all the difference in the outcome.

What kinds of tweaks might the Cougs make tonight?

Well, for one, you might see them employ a different strategy on the perimeter, because they’ve got to change something strategy-wise to try and contain penetration. I’d expect to see them doing a lot less switching on high ball screens so there is less scrambling on defense.

I’d also expect to see them try to do something — anything — to protect Aron Baynes from foul trouble. They’ll probably double him hard every time he touches the ball in the post, because they absolutely need him on the floor to combat Kevin Love’s rebounding prowess and to attempt to keep him away from the basket. Will doubling work? Love is an exceptional passer, so it will only work if the Cougars do a really good job cutting off angles to the open men and stay with the cutters. It’s risky, but it’s a risk the Cougs probably will take in order to take some of the pressure off Baynes.

Don’t be surprised if Robbie Cowgill takes some turns on Love, too. He’s better able to stay with Love on the perimeter. Remember, that game in Los Angeles didn’t truly get out of hand until Love started burying 3s in the second half. When that started happening, there was simply no way to defend UCLA, and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Despite what I’ve written the past few days, this team is still good, and this team can still beat a very good team. It might take an exceptional offensive effort or a bit of an off night from UCLA or even just a few fortuitous bounces, but it can happen.

Tonight’s as good a time as any, because the Cougs are quickly running out of time to make statements.

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‘Do better’ and ‘try harder’ are not sufficient solutions

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 7, 2008

Vince Grippi over at the Spokesman-Review has been doing an awesome job covering the Cougs this year, especially since he was thrust into the role unexpectedly at the end of last basketball season. But his most recent article, looking at what the Cougs need to do in the second half of the Pac-10 season, really kind of irked me this morning.

If you’ve read Grippi over there at all, you know that essentially he’s an eternal optimist, which of course is a rare quality among journalists. He spent the bulk of the football season defending Alex Brink — not exactly a popular stance — and often tries to talk fans down off their ledges, which is important. But, sometimes, I think his rose-colored glasses keep him from seeing reality.

In his story today, he addressed five things the Cougs need to do better in the second half to be successful, one of which I outright disagree with. And while I agree that doing the other four of them will make the Cougars more successful, I disagree that they actually will be able to do the most important key, which comes without a suggestion from either himself, Tony Bennett or players as to how the Cougs are going to make it happen.

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