But if the beginning of the season is any indication, Thompson might be challenged to lead the Cougars in scoring. That is because junior-college transfer Faisal Aden led WSU in that category for the second consecutive game with 26 points in a 88-71 win against Idaho on Tuesday night at Friel Court.
"It's definitely another level of play," Aden said in a postgame radio interview. "I'm a pretty confident guy and I just step up my play."
Aden, who also had three steals, again started at point guard in place of sophomore Reggie Moore, who now has a cast on his left wrist and remains sidelined indefinitely. He said he is comfortable running the offense.
"I feel like I'm a basketball player first," Aden said. "I'm not just a scorer."
The Cougars (2-0) had little problem without Moore early as they went on a 15-0 run to take a 17-2 advantage. But that ended when Idaho guard Jeff Ledbetter hit a 3-pointer. The Vandals (1-1) then took advantage of Ledbetter's 3-point shooting as he made 4 of 6 attempts in the first half, and guard Landon Tatum's quickness in transition cut the deficit to 43-38 at halftime.
"He caused some problems with his quickness and aggressive play," WSU coach Ken Bone said in a postgame radio interview.
But Aden and freshmen Patrick Simon and Andre Winston Jr. also are playing significant minutes in the Cougars' rotation. Bone felt some of his team's problems were a result of integrating his new personnel.
"It's early in the year and we've got new players," he said. "We need to fit those players in and it's going to take awhile to get them into a flow."
WSU's struggles continued early into the second half as Idaho cut its deficit to 49-47 with a little more than 16 minutes left. But that ended when the Cougars took advantage of seven turnovers by the Vandals to go on a 15-0 run in about four minutes. WSU's lead remained in double figures from that point.
Even without Moore, the Cougars' offense was efficient. They shot 57.6 percent from the field and featured balanced scoring. Despite a poor shooting performance — Thompson converted just 7 of 17 attempts — he finished with 23 points and had a career-high nine assists. Junior center DeAngelo Casto added 10 points, while Simon again showed his shooting touch, converting 5 of 7 field goals, en route to 12 points.
"We have guys who can take pressure off Klay," Aden said. "Teams can't just focus in on Klay. That makes him more of a threat."
Thompson, who played 37 minutes Tuesday, still is playing more than Bone would prefer. He feels Thompson can be more effective if he plays about five minutes less, but Bone said he is pleased with his pupil's performance so far.
"He's just continually becoming more of a complete player," he said. "He's rebounding, shooting the ball and I really felt he had a nice presence on the defensive end."
WSU's defense was not quite as strong. Ledbetter scored all of his 18 points on 3-pointers — he converted 6 of 9 attempts from beyond the arch — and Idaho shot 47.2 from the field. The Cougars also were outrebounded 31-26.
"I felt like we were resting on defense too much," Bone said. "We're not good enough to do that."
The Cougars now have won eight consecutive games in the longest continuing series west of the Mississippi River to extend their record to 159-107 against the Vandals.
WSU next plays against Portland at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at KeyArena (TV: FSN-NW).
Aden shows his scoring prowess in WSU win
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