Coach Howland and his Ben Ball warriors are back in Pauley this afternoon to take on another tough Pac-10 opponent. As huge as Thursday's victory was against Washington that will not mean much if the Bruins somehow suffer a letdown today against one of the better coached team in the conference. The Cougars come into Pauley with a record of 13-13 (5-9 in the Pac-10). Yet as Dohn reports Bruins would be foolish to expect an easy game this afternoon against Tony Bennet's WSU team. As Coach Howland said it will take another "monumental effort":
"We're at home," Howland said. "You have to take advantage of being at home. The tough part is Washington State has played well here historically. ... We've been lucky to win here a couple of times."
Still, WSU (13-13, 5-9) is 1-50 at UCLA, with the win coming in 2005, Howland's first season with the Bruins.
But the Cougars have lost their past four visits to Pauley by a combined 13 points, and play a methodical style, walking the ball up the court and showing extreme patience on each possession.
"We're going to have to have a monumental effort because we're going to be on defense a lot," Howland said. "They want to wear you down by making you play defense. It's like a ball-control offense in football. It starts benefiting them as the game wears on."
Washington State is coming into Pauley after suffering a tough loss against the Trojans. They fell behind early in that game and then scrapped and clawed their way back in the second half before losing it in the closing mins. Details from Grady at CougCenter:
Despite a 17-4 run capped with under ten minutes to play, WSU was unable to overcome an eight point halftime deficit against USC. The Cougars (13-13, 5-9 Pac-10) fell to the Trojans (16-9, 7-6), and fell to a .500 overall record for the first time this season.
Taylor Rochestie led the way for the Cougars with 16 points, and Caleb Forrest chipped in 12. Wazzu leading scorer Klay Thompson had a difficult game in his return home to Southern California, making only 2 of 13 baskets, including 1 of 6 from three-point range.
The Cougars as a team struggled mightily from behind the arc, connecting on only 2 of 18 attempts. USC made 2 of 3, and was led by Dwight Lewis' game-high 17 points.
USC opened up the game with a 21-8 run. WSU closed to within eight at halftime, and followed up with their 17-4 run to bring the game back within one point, at 45-44. But a missed Taylor Rochestie shot and a quick bucket by Dwight Lewis gave the Trojans a three point lead, and they never looked back. USC closed the game on a 16-7 run.
I think the way these guys never quit is noteworthy given the way our guys have had trouble putting teams away in the second half. We build 8-11 pt lead multiple times against the Huskies last Thursday night only to see the those leads evaporate via Husky runs. Similarly against Arizona State the week before we were never able to hold on to 4 pt leads during the second half. Not to mention we managed to cough away a 13 point half time lead against these guys up in Pullman before pulling out a 2 pt win.
So, in a game like today not only will it be important for Ben Ball warriors to show patience on offense, we will also have to do the same on defense. We will have to be extremely disciplined to make sure there are no breakdowns in our coverage in the last second like we saw against the Sun Devils when Harden's supporting cast killed us with one (buzzer beating) open shots after another.
Of course given the problems we have had with our peremeter defense DC will have to watch out for Taylor Rochestie. He led the Cougars with 16 points at Pauley West last Thursday night. He also had five rebounds and four assists. Per Sportsline.com notes, he and Klay Thompson have been two of the team's most consistent contributors all season. This game will present another opportunity for DC and JH to work on their defense before heading into the biggest road trip of the season.
Upfront PAA will have to deal with Aaron Baynes who had a solid game against us up in Pullman with 15 points and 4 boards. But the guy I think we should be looking out for is Caleb Forrest who abused ND up in Pullman for 19 points. Hopefully ND and JK will be ready defensively today. ND has been playing really well of late offensively. Not only he is shooting better within the flow of the game, he is also emerging as one of the better passers in the team. He is giving what he can on D but we need more from him. As for JK he has to find a way to give us more than he has this year. Honestly I think we can get more out of him. He has flashed his potential here and there this seaoson but hasn't managed to put it together like many of us hoping for after seeing what he could do towards end of the last season. This will be a great game for him to step heading into the final stretch of this season.
We have also talked about our rebounding issues in last few games. We managed to hold our ground against the Huskies on Thursday night. We will have to show the same tenacity again this afternoon. The Cougars outrebounded us 28-21 up in Pullman. Sure the margin had something to do with the fact that we were on fire in the first half but it also had to something with Cougars like DeAngelo Casto and Marcus Capers outhustling us for boards. Pet CougCenter notes Casto "looked great" against Gibson on Thursday night We can't let the Cougars outhustle us on our home court this afternoon. Hopefully PAA can lead the way again. He was profiled today in the LA Times.
So as Coach Howland mentioned it will take another "monumental effort" this afternoon to sustain the positive mo. from Thursday night. Hopefully we will see that not only from our warriors but the entire Pauley crowd.
The game tips off around 12 pm PST. We will see in the game thread about half an hour before it.