Coach Tony Bennett and his Washington State Cougars traveled 300 miles to play a "home" game in the annual Cougar Hardwood Classic. They packed their bags and traveled to Seattle for a game in Key Arena, former home to the NBA Sonics.
The Cougs were coming off consecutive losses to Top 25 teams, one of which was a blowout by rival Gonzaga.
Would the Cougs return to winning ways, or would there be more talk about freshman learning the system?
Montana State arrived in Seattle with a win over another Pac-10 team, Oregon State. The Bobcats were hungry for their fifth win on the season.
Saturday night wasn't their night. MSU fell to WSU 70-51, improving the Cougs record to 7-3 over their first 10 games.
It appeared the work Coach Bennett put his team through over the past few days to improve offensive play paid off. Senior Taylor Rochestie looked comfortable running the offense, something that hasn't happened often this season.
For the Cougs to be competitive, it's imperative that Rochestie play up to his ability. Saturday night against the Bobcats, he was all that and more. Taylor finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds, six assists, and just two turnovers.
How well did WSU perform offensively?
Washington State converted 58 percent of their shot attempts in both the first and second half. There's a level of consistency that will get plenty of wins.
Klay Thompson led the Cougs with 14 points. The freshman changed things up. His pattern has been to start the game shooting well, then tailing off in the second half. Klay looked smooth after intermission knocking down some nice shots. He turned the table on an opponent by figuring out how to beat their defense after talking things over with coaches at halftime.
Montana State has been a scoring machine over their first seven games of the season, averaging 71 points a game. The Cougar defense shut them down, allowing just 50 points to be put up on the scoreboard. WSU did that by forcing the Bobcats into bad shots. MSU finished the game making just 32 percent of their shot attempts. Once again Bennett Ball frustrated another opponent.
True freshman DeAngelo Casto had a very nice game coming off the bench. He blocked a couple of shots, grabbed four rebounds and scored eight points on 4-4 shooting. Casto did all that with just 17 minutes of playing time. This kid just brings energy and athletic talent on the court every time he sheds his warm-ups and enters the game.
Two other freshman who logged some quality playing time were Marcus Capers and Mike Harthun. Neither was much of a factor in the game, but getting some time under the lights is valuable for the Cougs to enjoy success this season and in the coming years.
With just two more games before the conference schedule begins for WSU, Coach Bennett is still trying to get a feel for his rotation. An eight man rotation might be the way things are shaping up. It's looking like senior Caleb Forrest, Casto and Capers are going to be the key reserves.
They will likely backup starters Aron Baynes, Daven Harmeling, Nic Koprivica, Thompson and Rochestie. The only thing that might change things would be an injury or continued improvement by Harthun.
Things are looking good for the young guns of Washington State.
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