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GAME THREAD: No. 22 WSU at Cal

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 28, 2008

Cougars (21-6 overall, 9-6 Pac-10) at Bears (15-10, 6-8)

Haas Pavilion (Berkley, Calif.), 8 p.m. PT
TV: FSN

Well, folks, it’s go time. Three games to go in the regular season; three games to prove to the NCAA committee we deserve a 3-5 seed and not a 7-10 seed.

You know, coming up with new and original things in these game thread previews is becoming more difficult the deeper we get into the season — especially with the Pac-10’s round-robin format — so I’m going to keep it simple tonight by just giving you one offensive and one defensive key for the Cougs that if they succeed in executing they likely will succeed.

Offensive key: Get to the free throw line. There’s a pretty good correlation between opponents free throw rate — free throws attempted divided by field goals attmepted — and Cal’s defensive efficiency, which is flat-out the worst in the conference this side of Corvallis. When Cal’s opponents have exceeded 33 percent in free throw rate, the Bears are 1-8. Less than 33 percent? 14-2, including the victory in Pullman when the Cougs posted a 32.1.

This is something the Cougs have been rather good at over the past few weeks, and if they can keep it up tonight it bodes well for their chances. All the guards will need to be aggressive to the basket and bail out Cal’s porous penetration defense by just chucking up 3s.

Defensive key: Keep Cal from lighting it up. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Like most offenses, Cal’s offensive efficiency is pretty much directly tied to its effective field goal percentage, but the Bears’ correlation is stronger than most. If they’re hitting their 3s and getting easy buckets in transition, it relegates Cal opponents to simply trying to outscore the Bears. That’s not where the Cougs want to be tonight.

Since the last game wasn’t on TV, I can’t specifically address what the problem was, but I can guess based off what was going on at that point in the season. We weren’t getting out on shooters, something that had been dramatically improved until the last 10 minutes of the Arizona game. As long as Saturday wasn’t a case of tired legs, I expect us to get back to the defense we played during the winning streak, which should result in a win tonight.

Oh, yeah — and stop this guy. That will help, too.

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15 Responses to “GAME THREAD: No. 22 WSU at Cal”

  1. Nuss said

    And we are open for comments! Four minutes in, I absolutely LOVE what I’m seeing so far. Tough defense, focused energy, and a lot of scrappiness. That has to be our identity, and it seems like we lost that a little bit at times this year. It seems this team understands the urgency right now. I like it.

    No Harmeling. It’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the offense with Forrest getting increased minutes.

  2. Nuss said

    I love Kyle Weaver … but is anyone else getting frustrated watching him miss 2-foot shots?

  3. Nuss said

    I love it — Chris Henry comes in the game and immediately his guy gets an offensive rebound. Ouch.

  4. Nuss said

    Guess I’m talking to myself around here … πŸ˜›

  5. Duane said

    Nope… just haven’t been near the CPU while the game is on. πŸ™‚

    Baynes looks great on the inside and it’s obvious Low, Weaver and Rochestie have been looking for him down low. Great defense thus far, especially from Weaver. But it’s frustrating to see Anderson continue to have his way with us in the paint and draw foul after foul, especially when our bench is a man down. Baynes, Cowgill, Koprivica and Forrest all have two fouls thus far, correct?

  6. Nuss said

    That is correct. I just don’t know how we can guard him, but I guess we haven’t been alone in that this year. It seems like every time we start to stretch a lead out, he brings his team back. The Cougs really have been on the verge of running away with this thing, and Anderson is the only guy holding them close.

    I like that for our chances in the second half, if the foul trouble doesn’t really start causing problems. Let me ask you one question: Can you ever remember a team that tries to draw fewer charges than ours? It seems like Weaver’s the only guy who ever gets them. I think Caleb and Robbie could stand to try a well-timed flop when Anderson is in the post.

    Oh, and what’s up with Cal climbing over our backs and shoving guys on every missed shot? It sure would be nice to get some of those calls going our direction.

    But all in all, I like where this game is heading. Cal is taking some poor shots, and it’s costing them. Our perimeter defense has been solid, and we’ve contained the transition game.

  7. Nuss said

    And thanks for checking in — I was about to start looking for the straight jacket.

  8. Duane said

    Agreed. Weaver is the only one who comes to mind who you see really making an effort at grabbing a charge call.

    I can only recall one transition basket for Cal in the first half and we’ve done a good job of limiting them to taking shots they’re not comfortable taking. We clearly need to double Anderson, but even then he’s finding a way to the hoop. You’re right – we may need to try to a flop-type approach, but with the way he played in the first half (and on their home court, to boot), those calls may not go our way as often as we’d like.

    I’d like to see Rochestie and Low try to do something off the dribble and see what they do about covering Baynes. If they’re going to attack the penetrating guard and leave Baynes alone like they did the whole first half, we should continue to exploit that.

    It really isn’t a different team out there without Harmeling though, ain’t it?

  9. Duane said

    It really *IS* a different team, rather. Sorry, it’s after midnight here. Ugh…

  10. Nuss said

    Yes, it is. I can’t believe Cal gave Rochestie that shot.

  11. Nuss said

    I’m guessing the lack of flops is a defensive philosophy thing — if you flop, you’re out of position to help your teammates, which goes against the Bennett defense. But sometimes it’s necessary to keep a guy honest. This would seem to be one of those times.

  12. Nuss said

    Weaver and Baynes are a two-man wrecking crew right now. Awesome. And Anderson has been relatively quiet so far as we’ve stretched this lead. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  13. Duane said

    Love what Weaver is doing. Every time he penetrates he’s looking for Baynes and as soon as he makes the pass, two or three defenders go diving at Aron and foul. The last time down before the Cal score, Baynes was manhandled down low before the foul was even called. The swipe by Cowgill as he stepped in front of Anderson was huge – great way to start the second half.

  14. Sedihawk said

    FANTASTIC victory! Sharing the ball, balanced scoring, and the D was strong. Any time you can hold a Cal team to 49 points, at Berkeley, you are doing something right.

    Nice “dap” from the Go-2-Guy Nuss, and it’s well-deserved. You’ve got a great thing going here. Are you headed to the football dinner tonight? A few of us will be there, so if you are there I’d like to meet you.

  15. Nuss said

    Thanks for the compliments! As part of the mutual admiration society, I’ll tell you I enjoy what you guys do, too. I think we make a pretty nice team in the Coug blogosphere.

    I’d like to meet you — and other blog readers — too, and I actually will be on the west side of the mountains tonight. However, I will be making preparations for my son’s first birthday party tomorrow. I’m actually going to be at the UW game next weekend, so I’d like to figure out a way for some of blog readers to get together at The Coug or something to meet. Those sorts of functions seem to work out pretty well for those guys over at USS Mariner and Lookout Landing, so why not?

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