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February 4, 2012
Playing in the Palouse
With the conference season in its second half, it's more important than ever before to hold serve at home and at least score a split on the road. The Bruins will be trying to put the disappointment in Seattle behind them and accomplish just that Saturday afternoon in Pullman.
It will be a matter of learning from Thursday and applying the lessons against Washington State. The primary lessons would be for Joshua Smith to understand that the way he played against Washington has to become the way he plays every night; if Smith is up to that, his teammates have to be focused on getting him the ball at every opportunity to do so; and the guards must understand it's a good thing to penetrate against a defense but jumping into the air hoping to find something positive to do with the ball once you're hanging around up there is a high school mistake and shouldn't happen to you at the collegiate level.
Just as UCLA saw Washington get healthier just in time for the Bruins' visit to Seattle with the return of C.J. Wilcox to convert four key free throws late in the game, the luck has gone in the other direction in Pullman where the Cougs have lost star and leader senior Faisal Aden. It's a huge blow to Coach Ken Bone and Washington State who have been struggling this season even before this.
Still, The Cougs do have home court advantage and have to hope the traveling Bruins left their game on the court in Seattle Thursday night. And the Bruins will have to go without Travis Wear who suffered what is being called a mild high ankle sprain late in the game Thursday night.
Tip-off is scheduled for a few minutes after 2:00 PM PST Saturday. Game won't be on FSN Prime or West so unless you can access the Root's NW stations, listen for this one on 570 AM or look for it on a computer near you.
Bone is in his third season as coach of Washington State and his Cougars are 11-10 overall, 3-6 in conference but 8-1 at home. With or without Aden, they badly need a victory over the Bruins Saturday.
The Cougars, like most of the Pac-12, are a fairly young team with four freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and 4 seniors on the team. They return three starters from last years team that went 22-13 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-10 and finished the season by making it to the semi-finals of the N.I.T.
Brock Motum, a 6-10 245 pound junior forward from Australia, is the team's leading scorer at 16.4 points per game. Motum also leads the team in rebounding with a 6.5 average. Motum is hitting 56.4 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from beyond the 3 point line. He is converting 76.7 percent of his free throws but has 67 turnovers, high for the team, and also leads the team in fouls with 52. He does have 41 assists, second on the team and is one of only two Cougars to start every game.
Bone is going to be hard put to replace is Aden. His ACL injury takes away arguably WSU's most dangerous player and team leader. He was second in points with an 14.5 average, tops in steals with 22, had 24 assists and averaged 3.1 rebounds per game. He was shooting 47 percent from the field, 33.9 percent from beyond the arc and was the team's best free throw shooter at 89.4 percent.
The Cougs still have true freshman DaVonte Lacy (6-3, 206) who is the team's number three scorer averaging 9.9 points, second on the team in assists with 42 and second on the team in steals with 18. Lacy averages 2 rebounds per game. He shoots 39.6 percent from the floor, 35.9 percent from three, and 77.8 percent from the free throw line.
Junior Reggie Moore (6-1, 178) averages 9 points per game, is second on the team with 21 steals and nabs 2.5 rebounds per game. Moore leads the team with 117 assists. He is also second in turnovers with 55. Moore shoots only 38.5 percent from the field but hits 40 percent from beyond the arc as well as 72.1 percent from the free throw line.
The only other player to start every game for the Cougars is Marcus Capers. Capers, a 6-4 179 pound senior guard, is the glue for this team. He is very consistent and is a leader on defense. Capers averages 5.3 points on 56.1 percent shooting. He is making 33.3 percent from three and 66.7 percent of his free throws. He is third on the team in rebounding at 4.1 per game and has 38 assists with 15 steals. Capers also leads the Cougs in blocked shots with 16.
Bone has a deep bench and that's going to be an absolute necessity now. Ten players see at least ten minutes per game. D.J. Shelton, a 6-10, 240 pound red-shirt forward who transferred in from Citrus College in Rialto, CA., has made an impact in his first year getting 4.9 points and 3 rebounds per game. Charlie Enquist at 6-10 230 pounds has also made and impact. Enquist, a red-shirt senior, has averaged 4.7 points and is second on the team in rebounding at 4.2 per game.
Washington State has averaged 71 points per game and given up 67.1.
The Cougars shoot 47.2 percent as a team while limiting their opponents to 42.5 percent. They have made 37.5 percent from three and make a very respectable 72.3 percent of their free throws.
The Cougars are an average rebounding team despite their size getting only 0.2 more than their opponent. They average 14.6 assists per game and 14.1 turnovers, 5.4 steals and 2.5 blocks.
UCLA has a 99-14 advantage all time in this series and hope to make it an even 100 victories Saturday. But they will have to match the hustle and intensity and not suffer a letdown after playing Washington two days earlier.