Pullman, WA —The Washington State Cougars (12-3, 2-2) men’s basketball team returns to their home court Thursday evening at 7 pm PST when they host the Cal Bears (10-5, 2-1) in Pullman, WA.
Coach Ken Bone’s team has split their first two weekly series to begin Pac-10 play. He pointed out during his weekly teleconference the Cougs could easily be 3-1.
WSU has come into conference play with confidence and proven they are a good basketball team getting better with every game.
A preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 championship, Coach Mike Montgomery has seen a number of his Cal players sustain injuries early on. “ We’ve had some kids down. We’re going to have [Jorge Gutierrez] down again this week. We’re not as deep as we’d like to be so we’re going to go with what we have,” Coach Montgomery said during the Pac-10 teleconference on Tuesday.
The key to success for Cal is their ability to score from outside. Not only do the Bears have three outstanding shooters in Theo Robertson, Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, they bring valuable experience to the table. All three are seniors who know how to win at this level.
“They’re very good. I think at least one of them is going to be in the NBA. It’s a situation where we have to have a lot of pride in our defense and understand that every possession in important,” acknowledged Coach Bone speaking about Robertson, Randle and Christopher.
When you look at Cal, it seems as though their strengths come in three’s. Not only can they shoot for a high percentage from three-point range, the Bears have three very good players who rotate up front to cause problems for opponents at both ends of the court.
“Their bigs are not only big, they’re tall,” said Coach Bone. He went on to describe the trio as, “…one kid, [Max Zhang] is about 7’ whatever. Then [Markhuri Sanders-Frison], the kid out of Portland, is just thicker than thick. [Jamal] Boykin is like DeAngelo Casto. He’s not as tall as everybody and not as thick…but he works relentlessly.”
Coach Bone described the big men up front as a three-headed monster. He’s impressed how effectively Coach Montgomery uses them to “get the job done.”
Washington State will counter with an impressive trio of their own in Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto. When it comes to scoring, teams have focused on limiting Thompson good looks at the basket, leaving Moore and other teammates open.
“[Reggie Moore] is a great penetrator. We knew what he’s capable of and had him on our radar. He’s strong and come in to do a great job for [WSU]. We’ve got to keep him out of the paint. When he gets in the paint he makes other players better. He’s come in and done a great job as a freshman,” said Coach Montgomery.
Cougar players are looking forward to playing in front of their fans packed into Beasley Coliseum. The game will not be televised, but you can listen in on the Cougar Basketball Radio Network with Bud Nameck calling the game.
“The [Cougars] are playing confidently. They’re not slowing the ball down. They have the ability to shoot it when they’re open…We have to have energy and shoot the ball.” - Cal Coach Mike Montgomery
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU Sports column on Examiner.com