Washington State men's and women's basketball will host their next opponents tomorrow night in the Tri-Cities area. Their "home" games will be played on the hardwood floor of the Toyota Center in Kennewick, WA, 139 miles southwest of Pullman, WA.
Coach June Daugherty will lead the WSU Cougar (4-5) women against the San Francisco Dons (4-8) in the first game of a WSU double header at the Toyota Center. Tipoff for their game will be at 1:30pm PST.
The Dons will limp into this matchup stinging from the loss of five of their last six games. Washington State is improving with each contest and has won two of their last three games. Freshman guard Kiki Moore is the Coug's top scorer, averaging nearly 14 points a game.
Following the opening game, the Washington State men's team will take the floor at 4:30pm PST to play Coach Ken Bone 's former team, Portland State.
Strange as it might sound, Coach Bone pointed out during his teleconference Wednesday morning that playing this game in Kennewick may serve as a greater advantage than at Beasley Coliseum. It all has to do with timing.
Finals week is finishing up today on campus in Pullman. For the few unfortunate students who were scheduled for exams today, they will be a part of the mass exodus from the Palouse known as Holiday Break. Truth be known, most of the student body is already somewhere other than their apartment or dorm room on campus.
"If we were playing this game in Pullman, I'm not sure we would draw real well. As I look at the past seasons and how the draw was in regards to attendance in Pullman during Christmas break, we'll probably draw better being in Kennewick," said WSU Coach Ken Bone.
The Cougs have won their last two games over Idaho and Air Force, but there is still work to be done preparing for Pac-10 play, which begins in just a couple of weeks.
Coach Bone would like to see better effort rebounding and keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Sophomore DeAngelo Casto has picked up where he left off last season. He leads the team with nearly seven boards a game. There has been increased rebounding production from sophomore Abe Lodwick , freshman Steven Bjornstad, and freshman James Watson, but there's plenty of room for continued improvement.
"I think Charlie Enquist has improved since last year. James Watson continues to get better and better. He had a great practice yesterday as did Steven Bjornstad. I'm not sure they're ready to be looked at as real quality Pac-10 players now, but neither was Aron Baynes when he first started out. It takes time for big kids to develop, usually a little bit longer than guards," Coach Ken Bone said.
Taking care of the basketball is usually the difference between winning and losing. Coach Bone and his staff emphasize the importance of being purposeful as a player when the ball is your hands. Much of the time turnovers lead to transition opportunities for your opponent. Trying to defend when the other team is in transition makes getting the ball back without giving up a basket a greater challenge.
"Making quality decisions when we have the ball in our hands, whether it's a shot or a pass. Where to dribble and when to dribble. There needs to be a purpose for putting the ball on the floor and dribbling. I'm not a big fan of guys catching and just start dribbling for no reason," Coach Ken Bone said.
Portland State is not your typical Big Sky Conference team. They advanced to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The Vikings have more shooters than General Sherman had on his march through the South.
Melvin Jones , Phil Nelson, and Jamie Jones average in double figures with 13.0, 12.5, and 12.2 points per game, respectively. What's dangerous about that trio is any one of them could go off for 20+ points in a single half. So how do you slow down the PSU pure shooters?
"We hope to be on them when they catch the ball and not give them a good look at the basket. When the do shoot it, it's a contested shot. There's no secret who those kids are just like it's no secret the Klay Thompson is an outstanding shooter," Coach Ken Bone said.
Yes, Portland State will have their hands full trying to slow down one of the top college players in the nation, Klay Thompson , who has the habit of suddenly running off 20+ points in a half.
In fact, he exploded for a couple of those halves in the Great Alaska Shootout championship game against San Diego. Klay put 43 points up on the scoreboard, something of a rarity by Pac-10 players. Only two others have accomplished that feat in the past five years. James Harden of Arizona State scored 40 in a game last season, and Leon Powe of Cal had 41 back in the 2005-2006 season.
Coach Tyler Geving was an assistant under Coach Bone before taking over the program this season. Geving has continued a style of play very similar to the one being run by Washington State. In short, this should be a high scoring affair, as both teams will trigger the ball up the court early and often.
If you can't make it to the Toyota Center Saturday afternoon, take in the broadcast of the game on FSN Northwest, and as always you can hear Bud Nameck on the Cougar Radio Network.
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU Sports column on Examiner.com