Washington State Preview

DevilsDigest.com previews Thursday night's matchup between the Sun Devils and the Cougs in Tempe. The game tips off at 7 PM MST at Wells Fargo Arena.

Most recent game:

The Cougars (11-13, 5-9) are coming off a 67-71 defeat in Seattle to in-state rival Washington (13-10, 8-6). Thomas Kelati paced the Cougars with 24 points but could not pull off the road upset, as the Huskies rallied from a six point deficit in the final minute to win the game. A three pointer with less than 20 seconds left proved to be the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Cougs.

The Sun Devils (10-14, 4-11), on the other hand, were able to pull off the upset on the road. ASU shocked Oregon (12-9, 7-7) in Eugene, 86-75. Ike Diogu led the Sun Devils by registering a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Hill and Kevin Kruger provided the outside threat the Devils desperately needed, scoring 18 and 17, respectively. The Sun Devils stifled the Ducks at times with a new, aggressive 3-2 zone.

Key Matchups:

ASU zone vs. WSU's patience: Can the zone defense that helped ASU defeat Oregon also cause problems for the Cougs? Or will the Sun Devils' defensive intensity wane when as the possession clock ticks down, leaving WSU players open for easy jumpers? Can the Cougs hit the open jumpers if they get them? There are lots of questions to answer here. The Devils' defensive woes would tell you that WSU will get open jumpers; however, the Cougs shoot less than 40% overall and only 33.6% from long range.

Sun Devil shooters vs. WSU collapsing defense: ASU's outside shooters are a key to every game the Sun Devils play because Ike Diogu receives so much of the defense's attention down on the block. ASU is also only shooting 33.6% from behind the arc, but recently Jamal Hill and Kevin Kruger look to be hitting their shots consistently. The ASU offense can score points when their perimeter players are keeping defenses from completely collapsing on Diogu. The other key to watch in this matchup is whether Serge Angounou can be effective making cuts to the high post when his man his helping to deny the entry pass into Diogu on the block. He did a very nice job of this against Oregon and his solid spacing really gave room for Ike to operate.

Other Notes:

§ Marcus Moore leads the Cougs in scoring, but is shooting less than 38% from the floor overall and makes only one of every four three point attempts. WSU's main outside threat is Thomas Kelati, who shoots over 41% from the field, but actually raises his average to over 42% when he steps behind the arc. Randy Green also shoots a respectable 39.3% from long range.

§ WSU is dead last in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, with a mark just under .9.

§ The Cougs lead the league in scoring defense, allowing only 58.3 points per game. Conversely, they are last in scoring offense, averaging 56.5 points scored per contest. Obviously, their slow down style has worked this season. They also are the only team in the Pac-10 shooting under 40% overall.

§ Washington State does a very good job in limiting their opponents' three point looks, allowing only a 35% success rate. That is second in the Pac 10 behind Oregon.

§ ASU should be able to rebound well on the defensive end against the Cougars, who are last in the Pac-10 in the number of boards they have grabbed. The Cougs are also last in the Pac-10 in rebounding margin, giving up more than two extra boards per game to their opponents.

Prognosis:

It feels like Rob Evans has finally found a rotation with which he is comfortable. Additionally, the improved team's zone defense allows the Sun Devils to throw more looks at their opponents on that end of the floor. If ASU can find Moore and Kelati, causing the other Cougars to hit shots, ASU should win the game comfortably. I think this will happen on Thursday: WSU 61, ASU 68.

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