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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.


80 Responses to “GAME THREAD: No. 5 UCLA at No. 17 WSU”

  1. NyCOUG said

    Come on COUGS!! We need this one!

    (particularly because the NYC alum group is watching with the Bruin alums and I’m tired of hearing it from them!)

    GO COUGS!!

  2. B-Htr said

    We’re gonna get drilled tonight…but if we manage to sneak one, EVERYTHING instantly becomes fine and dandy all over again.

    Lets see how that first half goes offensively..they really, really, really bother us..

    And Ditto Cowgill on Love. Its gotta be a no brainer

  3. Longball said

    We havnt had that mid-season emergent player yet this year, like Rochestie last year. I am waiting for Caleb Forest to emerge as an inspirational force for us down the stretch. It all begins tonight and it doesnt stop till we cut down the nets in March! Ok, that may be a stretch, but that is the kind of sh-t i dream about.

  4. Nuss said

    I don’t know that everything becomes fine and dandy again, unless they win in a fashion that convinces me the performance is sustainable. We shall see. I’m very, very interested to see what kinds of adjustments Bennett makes in these rematch games.

  5. Jo-Jo said

    It’s all about the adjustments. This team is good enough to beat every team in the Pac-10. Whether or not they do rests firmly on how they adjust tonight.

    And a win doesn’t make things better because we’ve got USC on Saturday and from here on out, every game will be tough.

  6. Jo-Jo said

    Why do I feel in my gut that I’m on my way to a funeral?

  7. Longball said

    Has anyone tried those sauceless hot wings from KFC? I know i shouldnt be, but i’m intrigued.

    GO COUGS!!!!

  8. Longball said

    another promising start squandered.

  9. Jo-Jo said

    What’s with the empty seats on in Beasley?

  10. Longball said

    weather is keeping people away, but the game is a sell out.

  11. Jo-Jo said

    Weather never kept me from games.

  12. Jo-Jo said

    One more pass Robbie, Damn It!

  13. Jo-Jo said

    Intentional? Come on! Free Throws and the Ball.

  14. Longball said


  15. Jo-Jo said

    Weaver; by you.

  16. Longball said

    Weaver was a blur on that move!

  17. Jo-Jo said

    Good call Longball. I see you.

  18. Jo-Jo said

    I don’t see anything different in terms of defensive strategy. I really would like to see what this squad could do with a zone-d.

    I think the only difference between this game and the one in LA is the fact that the Cougs are actually hitting a few shots. I said it then, the first 10 minutes of that game would have been close it the Cougs had just made a few shots.

  19. Longball said

    Wow, Love gets a total phantom “Michael Jordan” call on Baynes.

  20. Nuss said

    Kyle Weaver is so ridiculously awesome. Somehow, I knew he was going to get a clean block on that if the refs would let him.

  21. Longball said

    Weaver is a fast break’s worst nightmare. He makes SO many hustle plays on fast breaks.

  22. Nuss said

    You know what the reality is, Jo-Jo? The Cougs’ man to man defense is very, very similar to a zone already in all the important ways. Lots of switching, LOADS of help defense. It’s why the 3-pointers kill us the same way they kill a zone. So, yeah, we could play a true zone, but Tony Bennett would rather not be excommunicated from the Bennett family.

  23. Nuss said

    Can anyone answer me why Aron Baynes can’t figure out how to stay out of foul trouble? It’s the most irritating and irrational thing I know. It can’t possibly be that difficult, especially since most of his fouls are stupid.

    How about Caleb Forrest on the nice fastbreak finish? Give him some love, Jo-Jo.

  24. Longball said


  25. Longball said


  26. Jo-Jo said

    You know what doesn’t happen when you play zone? You don’t get crossed up on switches (which has lead to 3 UCLA baskets tonight), you pass players off.

    The 1-3-1 zone is tough against the 3, and the Cougs have the perfect personnel for it on the starting unit.

  27. Jo-Jo said

    Hey, I’m all ’bout Caleb Forrest.

  28. Nuss said

    That is true about the zone. But then again, you don’t necessarily need to get crossed up on the man-to-man, either …

    Halftime thoughts on the way.

  29. Longball said

    You know Jo Jo, the coaches may hear ya on that one. they went to a zone for one play last week so it has to be something they’ve worked on and thought about. I bet Tony catches a beating from Dad if he does it.

  30. Jo-Jo said

    That last dunk by UCLA was a total break down in the match-up zone that the Cougs play. It doesn’t happen against a true zone.

    Everyone knows that a zone is what you do when you don’t have the players to lock a team down man-to-man. If your analysis is true and the Cougs are having personnel problems on d, then a zone is the logical answer.

    And in terms of the Bennett family; a zone doesn’t mean that you’re not playing tough defense. Ask anyone who lost to ‘Cuse the year ‘Melo took them to the Championship. That defense was tough.

  31. Nuss said

    I said before the game that we probably would need a little bit of help from UCLA to win tonight, and so far, we’ve gotten it. The Bruins have turned the ball over a bunch, have yet to hit a 3 and haven’t really been all that aggressive going to the hoop — just two free throws.

    The down side is that we are getting absolutely destroyed on the glass. That is a direct correlation to Aron Baynes being on the bench. He is the only good rebounding big man on our roster, and the only guy with a prayer of boxing Kevin Love out. (Did you see the way Robbie got moved right out of the way for an offensive rebound then got whistled for the foul because he was near Love?) We need Baynes on the floor. Let’s hope we can continue to keep the game close so that he can play the last five minutes with abandon and not worry about fouling out.

    I also mentioned that you’d probably see a lot of double teams and a lot of Cowgill on Love. That’s exactly what we’ve seen, and I think it’s been relatively effective in keeping him in check. The downside is that’s what’s leading to a lot of the offensive rebounds UCLA is getting.

    Honestly, if the Cougs play like they did in the first half and figure out a way to secure a few more boards, they have a very good chance of winning this game.

  32. TiltingRight said

    Boy does this game look different than the one at Pauley. Too bad Taylor’s shot wasn’t .1 second quicker, and WTF is up with Love getting fouls called for him on flops when they’re letting them play on muggings?

  33. TiltingRight said

    Only 8 points and 5 boards for Love. Cowgill and Baynes are doing pretty well. Hope they can keep that up.

  34. Jo-Jo said

    Bennett bails out Baynes. That cracks me up.

  35. Longball said

    Remember all those missed layups early against the Bruins last time? Tonight they were dunks.

  36. Nuss said

    Six boards for Love, three of them offensive. That’s not good.

  37. Nuss said

    I blame the guard for even considering passing him the ball 15 feet from the basket. Once he gets it, he can only to one thing with it: Post move to score. That’s it. And any guard that doesn’t think about that before getting him the rock should be smacked.

  38. Jo-Jo said

    5 boards is a lot. I mean really, if he duplicates that he gets a double-double. That’s not that great of defense.

  39. Jo-Jo said

    Wow, that play to Forrest was SWEEEEET.

  40. Nuss said

    I swear, good things happen when Forrest is on the floor. And he actually looks respectable now, which is nice. I mean not everyone can pull off long hair like Derrick Low. Forrest was about to become WSU’s Robert Swift with that hair … all he needed was some really creepy tats.

    And, Baynes played four whole minutes without picking up a foul! How about that! (Although he did nearly turn the ball over twice, but why quibble?)

  41. Longball said

    OH NO WE DI INT!!! An ally-oop? really?

  42. Jo-Jo said

    No way Nuss, Forrest was awesome with the hair. He looked like a rejected casting from the failed show “Cavemen.”

    And when did Cowgill become Shawn Marion?

  43. Nuss said

    Now is the time to feed Baynes in the post. With Love on the bench, he should be able to get the kind of position he likes. He will just have to be decisive with his move so he can get his shot off before the double comes.

    We are right in this, boys. Our guards are doing a heck of a job keeping guys in front of them. Let’s hope they can keep it up for the duration of the game.

  44. Nuss said

    By the way, only one rebound for Love so far this half. Excellent job that probably has something to do with Baynes’ minutes.

  45. cougfootballer said

    Good call Nuss, to bad the entry pass sucked.

  46. cougfootballer said

    I love the fact that you don’t see Harmeling for twenty minutes and then BANG.

    Weaver has really long arms.

  47. cougfootballer said

    Holy crap, that was quick. My name just changed to Cougfootballer.

  48. Nuss said

    This is that point in the game where you’ve got to be able to hang while UCLA goes on a run just because they’re so talented. So far, we’re doing it. There will come a point where those little floaters and step-back 3s don’t fall, and we have to make sure we’re still right there. Hang in there, boys. You’ve got them right where you want them!

  49. Nuss said

    You can change your display name to anything you want under your profile. Go to the “my dashboard” up top, then click on “my profile” in the upper right corner.

  50. cougfootballer said

    This is such a great game for a basketball fan.

    D-Low, give me a break.

  51. cougfootballer said

    Four on Cowgill. This could be the problem right here.

  52. cougfootballer said

    The Cougs need a bit of a swing here. I can feel the momentum meter turning blue.

  53. Nuss said

    This is a HUGE point in the game. Cowgill with 4, Baynes with 3. That last foul on Harmeling was a direct result of Baynes not playing the tough post defense he wants to for fear that he picks up a cheapie. Not sure what the answer is here …

  54. Jo-Jo said

    Zone denies that basket.

  55. Jo-Jo said

    Jo-Jo is back.

  56. Longball said

    wow, we just had a flurry of turnovers at a crucial moment in the game.

  57. Nuss said

    Those fouls have completely changed the way we can defend. I do not like where this is going at all.

  58. Nuss said

    5 on Robbie. This game is all but over. There is no way we can defend UCLA without Cowgill and Baynes, who will foul out in another 30 seconds or so.

  59. Nuss said

    Our only real chance at this point is to outgun UCLA down the stretch. Somebody is going to have to get hot from deep, as we trade 3s for 2s.

  60. Longball said

    wow, that was some serious offensive rebounding domination.

  61. Longball said

    nail, meet coffin.

  62. Jo-Jo said

    UCLA turned up the defense. Jumping passing lanes. Helping from the weak side.

  63. Nuss said

    It’s really not that tough to dominate on the glass when you’ve got a three-inch and/or 40-pound advantage underneath. We are a victim of the fouls right now.

  64. Nuss said

    UCLA turned up the defense. Jumping passing lanes. Helping from the weak side.

    That’s what they did the entire game in LA. I’m surprised we didn’t learn from it. Well, we did on the one play where Rochestie got loose, but that was it.

    Oh, and it’s good to know Caleb is human. If that’s Low, he takes that ball right into Shipp’s body. Forrest tries to actually make the shot, and gets erased. Not a savvy move.

  65. Nuss said

    UCLA turned up the defense. Jumping passing lanes. Helping from the weak side.

    That’s what they did the entire game in LA. I’m surprised we didn’t learn from it. Well, we did on the one play where Rochestie got loose, but that was it.

    Oh, and it’s good to know Caleb is human. If that’s Low, he takes that ball right into Shipp’s body. Forrest tries to actually make the shot, and gets erased. Not a savvy move.

  66. Nuss said

    I don’t know if this is correct or not, but ESPN’s box score shows the rebounding 25-10 in favor of UCLA.

  67. Jo-Jo said

    Oh, this was so promising. 12-0 second chance points. Damn.

    Why is this the first time we are seeing Baynes on the line?

  68. Jo-Jo said

    showing some life.

  69. Nuss said

    Wow. Weaver got straight up beat by Westbrook. Ouch.

  70. Jo-Jo said

    Just shoot the ball. Why do players go for the foul on three’s? Just shoot the frickin’ ball.

  71. Nuss said

    Couldn’t agree more, my friend. Refs — in college anyway — have learned not to reward guys for that.

    And we miss a free throw. I’m shocked. Then we get outhustled for a rebound. Shocked again.

  72. Nuss said

    In an eight point game, we have now missed three consecutive free throws. I think I’m going to vomit.

  73. Longball said

    UCLA is better than us.

  74. Jo-Jo said

    Nuss, you say it all the time; “I hate it when I’m right.” I said at the beginning of the year that not having Fabian Boeke would be a problem at some point. There is no way to know how much of an impact he would have had this season, but I do know this. Being 6’11” alone makes you a better post defender than Forrest and Harmeling. With Baynes’ and Cowgill’s propensity to foul the living crap out of people, Boeke could have given this team a big defensive boost off the bench.

    The NCAA totally blew that call. That kid did nothing wrong, and now it’s showing the importance of front court depth to the game of college basketball.

  75. Jo-Jo said

    UCLA is better than WSU, but the Cougs could have won that game.

  76. Jo-Jo said

    As my boy Jim Rome would say, “Good night, now.”

  77. Nuss said

    Where did you find those second-chance points stats?

  78. Jo-Jo said

    On the TV screen. My research is so in depth.

  79. Jo-Jo said

    I guess if you wanted to calculate the totals yourself you could use the play-by-play transcript.

  80. Nuss said

    Dammit. I’m trying to find them online somewhere for a quick post.

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