Scouting Report: Washington State

WASHINGTON STATE, the Pac-10's second-place team behind UCLA, comes into the round two showdown against Vanderbilt with two big-time pluses. Leading scorer Derrick Low, slumping near season's end, has regained his stroke of late and high-flying Ivory Clark is back to the shot-blocking, slam-dunking difference maker he was when the Cougs were winning 6 of 7 against ‘Zona, USC, Stanford and Gonzaga.

The Cougs are 26-7 this season and a tourney three seed. They overcame a sluggish first half Thursday against Oral Roberts to win going away, 70-54. Clark, who it turns out spent much of last week sneaking into Bohler Gym at midnight to work on his moves and jumpshot, spearheaded the win with 19 points, five blocks and six rebounds.

The 6-foot-6 former high school high-jump champion and WSU forward is extremely tough in the paint, which will give pause to Vanderbilt penetrators Shan Foster, Derrick Byars and Alex Gordon.

Low scored 12 points against ORU, hitting 5 of 7 field goals, mixing in drives down the lane and mid to long-range jumpers.

The Cougar defense specializes in shutting down the transition game and led the Pac-10 in fewest points allowed per game (59). The Cougars run man-to-man, help-side defense and are solid defending the perimeter. In fact, swingman Kyle Weaver -- a contender for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors -- blocked 14 three-point attempts this season.

The Cougars, however, had two notable breakdowns defending the three-ball this season -- in a narrow loss to Oregon on Feb. 22 and in a semifinal loss to USC last week in the Pac-10 tournament.

In addition to Clark, the Cougars have 6-10 junior Robbie Cowgill and 6-11 sophomore Aron Baynes in the post. Cowgill is athletic and can be sneaky quick on defense. Baynes, who on offense is smooth shooting with either hand, is a load on D who uses his body to make things tough.

Weaver, though, truly is the one who makes the defense click. He was No. 2 in the Pac-10 in steals, sixth in blocks, and has uncanny knack for getting in position for charging fouls.

On offense, the Cougs like to slow it down, work the clock and then drive the lane or take a mid-range jumper. Unlike past Cougar teams, which religiously worked the clock, this squad will on occasion look for the transition basket and take the quick shot if the look is there.

While not on par with Vanderbilt in terms of willingness to shoot from three-point land, the Cougs aren't bashful about firing from downtown.

Low, point guard Taylor Rochestie and off-the-bench forward Daven Harmeling on the ones to watch from outside. Low was fourth in the Pac-10 in 3-point shots made this season and Rochestie has been on a scoring tear of late after being inserted into the starting line-up late in the season.

If the Commodores are cold from beyond the arc on Saturday, look for the Cougars to really slow things down and let the defense carry them. If the 'Dores are hot from outside, it could free things up for backdoor cutters. And that, in turn, would put more pressure on the WSU offense, whose most glaring weakness is lack of a go-to-guy.

The Cougars are 10-2 this season when trailing at halftime this season. Washington State is among the nation's best in fewest turnover committed per game, tied for No. 2 in the land with 10.3 per contest.

Commodores Daily Top Stories