Yeah we are all little giddy these days about football and are still basking in the overflowing passion bucket the day after signing day. But we still have a huge basketball game to keep our minds focused on. That’s right. Our Ben Ball warriors are getting ready to take on a very dangerous Cougar team up in Pullman, Washington tonight.
And it sounds like their road trip is off to a tough start. So much for having a smooth trip via a charter flight. From Kuwada in the OC Register:
The players were excited about it because would be able to stretch out in their own rows on the plane and the flight would take three to four hours, tops.
In reality, that proved a major inconvenience.
They took off from the Hawthorne Airport and had to make a stop for more fuel in Elko, Nev. From there, they were not allowed to land at the Pullman airport as planned because of inclement weather it has been snowing much of the day.
The Bruins were diverted to Lewiston, Idaho, where they landed a little after 9 p.m., or 8 1/2 hours after they left campus for the airport. And that was not the end of their journey.
The team then had to bus from Lewiston to their hotel in Moscow, Idaho, just across the border from Pullman. On a clear summer day, that trip might take an hour. But snow has been piling up on the highway since about 7 p.m. The Bruins did not arrive at their hotel until 10:20 p.m.
The Cougars have lost three of four, and a no call at the end of the Arizona State game might be all that separates WSU from a four-game losing streak. However, the Cougars made just four turnovers in a well-played (except for missed free throws late in the game) overtime loss to Stanford last week, and that helped WSU coach Tony Bennett take an upbeat approach to the UCLA contest.
"We've got an easy one coming up Thursday, so we should be OK. I'm not too worried about that," he joked.
Coach Tony Bennett's team plays a tough brand of man-to-man defense that applies pressure on the ball while aggressively playing the passing lanes.
Washington State enters this week leading the conference and ranked third in the nation in points allowed per game at 55.2 while holding opponents to 41.1% field goal shooting.
The Cougars boast three double-digit scorers on the offensive end. Derrick Low (6'2, 196, Sr) leads the offense with 13.9 points per game. Kyle Weaver (6'6, 201, Sr) and Aron Baynes (6'10, 270, Jr) are adding 11.9 and 11.4 points per game, respectively.
Low is a tough competitor whom the Cougars look to for the big shots. He has developed a quick shot release over his career and is tough to guard as he uses screens effectively to ward off defenders. He's shooting almost 40% from beyond the arc.
Russell Westbrook will get the assignment against Low. Westbrook did a good job of shutting down high-scoring freshmen James Harden and Jerryd Bayless in last week's Bruin wins over both Arizona schools.
Kyle Weaver is a good ballhandler and a solid distributor but the spider-like Weaver is known for his defense. He will be matched-up against UCLA's best perimeter scorer, Josh Shipp.
As we have mentioned already AA2, Keefe, Mata-Real will have to step up big in LRMAM’s absence. And we will also need some solid mins from Dragovic and Stanback at the wing. More on tonight’s game from AP and the LA Times.
At this point these there shouldn’t be any surprises when it comes to Washington State. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that our guys can maintain the same level of intensity we have seen from them in its last game. If they can come out with a focused, determined effort on defense, and stay patient on offense, we will have a chance to keep the momentum going tonight in Pullman. It will certainly help ease the pain of a brutal road trip.
As usual game thread will go up later tonight. See you there.