Cougars face tall order against Gonzaga bigs

WASHINGTON STATE IS advancing from exhibition to March Madness in a little more than a week. Well, at least its level of competition is when the Cougars open their regular season at 9 p.m. Monday at Gonzaga (TV: ESPN), which has advanced to the NCAA Tournament 13 consecutive seasons, and coach Ken Bone said Tuesday that he might be without multiple starters.

Two starting guards, senior Faisal Aden (concussion) and junior Reggie Moore (groin), are questionable, while Bone said senior forward Abe Lodwick (sprained foot) "doesn't look very promising."

Bone said the absence of any of those players will force him to expand the rotation. Lodwick's injury is challenging because WSU lacks depth in the front court. Bone said senior Charlie Enquist, junior Brock Motum and sophomore D.J. Shelton already will see extensive minutes in the post. But Lodwick's absence could lead to more time for sophomores Will DiIorio and Patrick Simon.

That is magnified by the Bulldogs' front-court talent, where their top two scorers from last season, Elias Harris (12.4 points per game) and 7-foot Robert Sacre (12.5), both return. Sacre also had a team-high 66 blocks last season.

"Not sure we need to play Gonzaga at this point," Bone said, laughing.

"They have as good a front court as almost any team in the country. I'm anxious to see how we do. It's a time where we can gauge."

Sacre was limited to just six points and converted just 1 of 5 field goals in Gonzaga's 81-59 loss last year in Pullman. But that was with since-departed DeAngelo Casto defending him. Shelton, a transfer from Citrus College in California, will take many of those minutes. Developmentally, Bone said the 6-10, 240-pound Shelton probably is comparable to Casto as a freshman.

"D.J. is not near where DeAngelo is right now," Bone said. "He's inexperienced in our program. It's going to take awhile."

AT GUARD, Bone junior Mike Ladd, freshman Davonté Lacy and redshirt freshman Dexter Kernich-Drew could see more time.

Bone said all three made favorable impressions during Saturday's 88-41 win against Lewis-Clark State College. Lacy scored a game-high 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting, while Ladd added 14 points. Bone said Lacy, who played the point, scored in "a variety of ways."

"I would rather see them comfortable against LC-State than nervous," he said.

Bone noted that LCSC was without a few key players, but he liked how his team performed. He cited the Cougars' 30 defensive rebounds compared with just three offensive rebounds for LCSC as a sign of their effort. He also said WSU held LCSC scoreless for a 9- or 10-minute span.

"I thought our guys kept up the energy and valued most every possession," Bone said.

In addition to its front court, Bone said Gonzaga has talented guards. Freshman Gary Bell spurned several major offers to sign with the Bulldogs and Bone said he "is extremely good."

"I talked about their bigs, but their backcourt is very good," Bone said.

  • Bone lauded the attitude and practice habits of his newcomers.

  • While no one is expected to replace the outside shooting prowess of Klay Thompson, who was a first-round pick by the Golden State Warriors, Bone said he expects to have a couple of quality three-point shooters.

    "Faisal Aden and Abe Lodwick are the two that have proven it the most," he said.

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