Bone wants more consistency from Cougars

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone likes a little confidence — a swagger — to his team. The Cougars displayed that during most of their nonconference schedule — Bone specifically noted WSU's 81-59 win Dec. 8 against Gonzaga — but that disappeared during the team's initial Pac-10 road trip in Los Angeles two weeks ago.

Bone thinks much of that was circumstantial, noting the team had seven games away from Friel Court in 21 days, and hopes that a normal schedule result in a different scenario as the Cougars (12-4 overall, 2-2 conference) play 7:30 p.m. Thursday at California (8-7, 1-2). They also compete at 5 p.m. Saturday at Stanford (9-5, 1-2).

But it is not just about confidence. Despite beating both Oregon State and Oregon by 14 points last week at Friel Court, Bone was not satisfied with all facets of his team's play. WSU had a combined 37 turnovers during those two games.

Bone attributed some of that to the different styles the Cougars have seen recently. He said USC, which defeated WSU 60-56 on Dec. 31, strictly played man-to-man defense. The Beavers then featured their traditional 1-3-1 zone, while the Ducks used 1-2-1 and frequently trapped.

"We saw a lot of different looks," he said. "I think that can kind of throw your team off at times."

But those turnovers are not just related to struggling with different schemes.

"We would like to get back to where we're playing more solid, consistent basketball," he said.

That will be necessary against the Golden Bears. While the defending Pac-10 champion graduated four starters — guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle and forwards Jamal Boykin and Theo Robertson — Bone said Cal still features arguably the conference's most accomplished coach, Mike Montgomery, and some talent.

He specifically cited guard Jorge Gutierrez's defense and all-around skills, forward Harper Kamp, who averages 13.1 points per game after missing last season because of a knee injury, and 6-foot-8 center Markhuri Sanders-Frison. He averages 10 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game.

"Even though they don't have the same kids, they know what they're doing," Bone said.

The Golden Bears lead the series 71-46 against the Cougars, and the initial meeting of the season between the teams is significant. In 11 of the last 13 seasons, the team that has won the opener ended up with a sweep.

Bone said ball sharing and shot selection will be significant for WSU against Cal. That was better last week than it was in Los Angeles, where the Cougars shot 44.6 percent versus UCLA and 36.7 percent against the Trojans.

ONE PLAYER WHO looked much better last week was point guard Reggie Moore. The sophomore combined for just 12 points on 3 of 18 shooting in Los Angeles. He had seven turnovers combined against the Oregon schools, but appeared more aggressive as he converted 9 of 10 free throws and averaged 13 points per game.

"I think he's feeling more and more comfortable," Bone said. "After the wrist injury when he first came back, he was a little bit tentative. I think he's getting a little more confident."

Bone tends to focus on the immediate game and had few details about the Cardinal, which has won their last five games against WSU at Maples Pavilion. Stanford graduated forward Landry Fields, who averaged a conference-best 22 points per game last season. But Stanford still features guard Jeremy Green, who averages a team-high 15.9 points per game and converts 43.2 percent of his 3-pointers, and freshman guard Aaron Bright from Bellevue High School.

"I'm very aware of Aaron Bright because we tried to recruit him here," Bone said. "He's a heady little guard."

NOTABLE NOTE:

  • Bone downplayed the significance of classes resuming this week at WSU. He said the semester system makes the first week more of an "introductory time" for students.


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