What Have You Been Up To?: WSU Cougars

Kevin "Kevo" Danna provides the faithful with his preview of the Washington State Cougars, including a look at their season since facing Stanford in January, who has been hot and not so hot for WSU, and the keys to a Cardinal victory as they look to get back on track after a disappointing two-week road trip to Arizona and Southern California.

It has been a rough road to hoe for the Cardinal the past couple of weeks, literally.  Despite playing inspired basketball in Southern California, the Farm Boys came out of LA with two losses and finished up the four-game road trip winless.  Now it's time for the Card to return to the friendly confines of Maples Pavilion, where they are 9-2 this season and 4-0 in the Pac-10.  Flying in to the Bay Area to play Stanford first will be Ken Bone's Washington State Cougars, a team that also finds themselves in the lower-half of the Pac-10 standings.  Let's take a look at what the deal has been with the Cougs since January 16, the last time these two teams met for a 77-73 decision in favor of Washington State in Pullman.

Since We Last Met: 2-3 (1-1 home, 1-2 away)

After barely holding on against the Cardinal, the Cougs flew south to take on the LA schools and got an impressive split by starting off the trip with a 67-60 win over the Trojans, a game in which they were led by Reggie Moore's 21 points and six assists.  Trailing by 10 at halftime, Washington State shot 56% over the final 20 minutes, committed only three turnovers, and eventually took the lead with 4:15 remaining thanks to Nikola Koprivica going a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc in the second half.

After losing 74-62 to the Bru Cru at Pauley Pavilion, Ken Bone's squad got ready for their rivalry week against the Huskies, and it didn't get off on the right foot.  Sophomore sensation Klay Thompson was late for the team bus the day before as the Cougars got ready to go westward bound to Seattle and was benched to start the game as a result.  Klay's tardiness makes him the third player late to a bus or meeting on Washington State over the course of Pac-10 play, following up DeAngelo Casto and Marcus Capers' late arrival to a team function before the Arizona State game on the road.  And much like that Tempe tussle, the Cougars played terribly in the second half, getting outscored 56-24 en route to a 92-64 loss, a game in which they held a seven-point advantage in the first half and led 40-36 at the break.  As for Klay Thompson?  He went 2-15 from the field and finished with seven points, a season low.

Last weekend, the Cougars split a home series with the ‘Zonas - losing 81-70 to the Sun Devils to get swept by Herb Sendek in the 2010 regular season and then blasting the Wildcats 78-60, a game that was within two possessions with seven minutes to go.

So not much has changed with Washington State since the Cardinal played them four weeks ago.  They can still put up points in a hurry, but they also know how to give up points in a hurry as well.  They have basically treaded water all Pac-10 season, floating around that .500 conference mark (but who hasn't?).  However, one thing is different.  Five of the Cougars' first six conference games were decided by five points or less.  Since then, no game has been closer than seven and the last four games have been double-digit decisions.  Will this trend continue in Palo Alto on Thursday?

Who's Been Hot:

•     Reggie Moore - It seems as though those late clutch free throws against Stanford really did wonders for his confidence offensively.  Reggie has scored in double figures in every game since the Stanford contest, including 45 points on the trip to Los Angeles.  Although he has been under his average the last three games with outputs of 13, 13, and 12, he is still a big factor on the offensive end.  He has dished out 13 assists while only turning the ball over four times in his last three contests, including an eight-assist, one-turnover performance against the in-state rival Huskies.  He is also 27-54 over his last five games from the field and hit 6-10 three pointers against the Bruins.
•     DeAngelo Casto - It's only a one-game streak, but his 19-point, nine-rebound, three-block effort against the Wildcats was his best performance against a non-Southland or SWAC-affiliated team.  If he is on against the Card on Thursday night, Stanford will be hard-pressed to come out with a victory.

Who's Been Not:

•     Klay Thompson - At one point, Klay was leading the conference in scoring at over 23 ppg.  But since he scorched Stanford for 27, Klay hasn't scored below his average and has only reached the 20-point mark twice in those five games (20 even in both).  He also had a three-game stretch (UCLA, UW, ASU) where he shot 13-52 (25% on the nose).  Perhaps his 5-11 outing against UA is a sign of better things to come as of late, but his recent play has certainly hurt his hopes of winning the Pac-10 Player of the Year honor.

Kevo's Keys to Cardinal Success against the Cougs:

•     Bench Production - Look for the bench to really have a good game for Stanford on Thursday.  It was certainly a rough go against UCLA with zero points, but the bench chipped in five combined from Igbinosa and Dildy against the Trojans.  Now that they're back at home, they should be able to feed off the good vibes at Maples.  Remember that the last time these two teams played at Maples, Will Paul came off the bench to have a career-high 13 points on 5-6 shooting and a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc.  The precedent has been set!
•     DeAngelo Casto vs. Jack Trotter - It isn't the marquee match-up that is Klay vs. Landry, but this is the battle that could very well determine the game.  Jack has played very well against quality big men in the past and was a big part in helping shut down DeMarcus Cousins to one of his least productive nights of the season.  It would be great if the Card could get 10 from Trotter, but they need him more to stop Casto from getting in a groove offensively.
•     Home Sweet Home - The Card are the only team in the Pac-10 to have an undefeated conference record at home.  Continue the trend and protect home court, baby!

Come on out to Maples tomorrow night for what hopefully will be a Cardinal victory, and then check back on TheBootleg.com for another great article from Boom Boom Salloom!

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