Bone: This could be a 'pivotal time'

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone hopes rest can cure his road-weary team. The Cougars (10-4 overall, 0-2 Pac-10) return home at 7 p.m. Thursday to play Oregon State. That, along with a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday against Oregon (TV: FSN-NW), mark their first games at Friel Court since a 81-59 win Dec. 8 against Gonzaga.

WSU has lost three consecutive games, including 80-71 at UCLA and 60-56 at USC last week.

"For a team that started out 10-1 ... it's an important stretch of the season," Bone said during his Tuesday teleconference. "It could be a pivotal time when you look back on it."

One player who struggled in particular was Reggie Moore. One season after USC coach Kevin O'Neill essentially credited Moore for the Cougars' win at the Galen Center, the sophomore combined for just 12 points on 3 of 18 shooting in Los Angeles. Bone said Moore needs "to be a little more aggressive," but blamed some of his struggles on fatigue.

"He played like he was worn out," Bone said.

Bone said the same applied to sophomore forward Brock Motum, who went scoreless in eight minutes at USC.

"He didn't have a good weekend," he said. "He wasn't as efficient as he usually is."

Bone cautioned against making any long-term judgments about those players based on their results in Los Angeles. He said a week earlier, his assessment of junior center DeAngelo Casto would have been similar. That was before Casto had eight rebounds and shot 8 of 11 from the field en route to a game-high 18 points against the Trojans.

"DeAngelo Casto seemed to be very involved in the game ... and we fed off of it," Bone said. "Without his performance, we might not have been in that game against USC."

The Cougars essentially had an extra day to prepare for this week's games because last week's Wednesday/Friday schedule was different from the typical Thursday/Saturday schedule for conference games.

"We've zeroed in on some of the areas where we took a step back," Bone said. "I think we've been able to hopefully clean that up."

OSU DID NOT have the same benefit as the Beavers played Sunday in a 76-75 upset win against Arizona. It was a remarkable turnaround for OSU (7-6, 2-0), which lost against team such as Seattle, Texas Southern and Utah Valley in November and December.

"I think Coach (Craig) Robinson kind of tinkers with his lineup during the preseason," Bone said. "I think he's got the team where he wants them right now with the addition of a new player."

That player is freshman guard Roberto Nelson, who redshirted during the 2009-10 season as he waited for academic clearance by the NCAA. He has averaged 7.7 points in six games this season.

The addition of Nelson, along with the development of sophomore guard Jared Cunningham, who averages a team-high 13.8 points per game, also has changed the way the Beavers have played. Bone said they do not run as much of the Princeton-style offense, which emphasizes constant motion, back-door cuts and passing, as in the past. College-basketball statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy's data supports that. Pomeroy's website lists OSU as playing at the 79th quickest adjusted tempo nationally after ranking 324th in 2009-10.

Robinson, who is in his third season at OSU, still primarily uses a 1-3-1 zone on the defensive end. Pomeroy ranked the Beavers as the least efficient team in the conference on that end at 160th nationally.

The Cougars had mixed results against that scheme last season. In a 65-60 win at Friel Court, they shot 51.2 percent as Moore converted 7 of 13 field goals en route to a game-high 19 points. Later in the season in Corvallis, Moore was 0 of 8 from the field — he finished with 10 points — as WSU made just 37.5 percent of its shots in a 59-55 loss.

THE DUCKS ALSO return to Friel Court after their controversial 91-89 overtime victory last season that ended WSU's six-game win streak in the series. The Cougars appeared to have won the game, 80-78, on a finger roll by Casto with three-tenths of a second remaining in regulation. But a technical foul was assessed when a WSU player stepped onto the court and Tajuan Porter made both free throws to send the game into overtime.

Oregon then defeated the Cougars at MacArthur Court and in the Pac-10 Tournament.

"We're going to approach the game against them like we did with Oregon State," Bone said. "It's not bad blood toward them, they just beat us."

After the season, the Ducks fired coach Ernie Kent and replaced him with Dana Altman. Oregon (7-7, 0-2) was picked to finish last in the Pac-10 this season by the media.

Bone said he does not know much about the Ducks beyond what he saw Dec. 2 on TV when they lost 83-80 against No. 8 Missouri.

"I saw the last 10-12 minutes against Missouri where they looked really good," he said.

He also said that is an apt assessment of his own program.

"I like our team," Bone said. "We have proven in certain games that we are very good. It's comforting knowing we can do that. We just need consistency.

"With the teams we have played — and the amount of home games we've had — I think 10-4 is very respectable."

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