First reviews of new Coug D a mixed bag

PULLMAN – The film doesn't lie. The Cougar defense was supposed to be opportunistic in their debut in the exhibition game this past Friday night. But Ken Bone said Tuesday after evaluating Wazzu's performance against Central Washington, there remains much to be desired on the defensive side of the ball for Washington State.

"I think we did some good things but like any season that first exhibition game there's a lot of room for improvement," Ken Bone said Tuesday. "But I thought we did some good things defensively, would like to see us put more pressure on the ball but it was hard, Central Washington had some great quickness at the guard spot.

"Royce (Woolridge) is a little banged up, he didn't play as well that night as he's been playing in practice. He's been in and out of practice the last few days so I think that hurt his ability to really get into people and pressure the ball."

Woolridge said he nicked up his knee about two weeks ago.

"I'm feeling a lot better…I've been working and going to treatment and I feel a lot better now. I'll be in full on Friday so I'll be good," said Woolridge.

The Central backcourt of Mark McLaughlin and Jordan Russell scored 15 and eight points, respectively, and gave WSU problems with their quickness. The on-ball pressure from the exhibition was just one of the aspects of the new defense on Bone's mind Tuesday -- he also wasn't satisfied with the off-ball denial.

"No it's gotta be better, it needs to be better," said Bone. "We're not really denying the wing as much as we are when the ball gets to the wing we're denying the ball – it should look like we're denying the ball back out front or from one side of the floor to the other. We did not do a great job in that area either.

"Again, there were some possessions where we did some good things but there's room for improvement."

The new defensive rules, tighter calls on arm bars and hand chucking, had an impact right out of the gate with both teams logging a significant amount of fouls.

"Well it wasn't easy, said Bone. "I believe there were 30 fouls called the first half which might be the most I've ever been involved with in a lot of years of coaching.

"It's not that officials need to adjust their game, it's the players and coaches we need to make some adjustments and continue to work on moving our feet, forcing the ball certain directions and we've just gotta take our hands off the guy and try really, really hard not to put our hands on anybody."

According to Bone, the number of WSU fast break opportunities will be a key barometer on the new defense's effectiveness. That aspect of the defense was nonexistent for the Cougs Friday -- they failed to score any fast break points.

Bone said trust will important in creating more chances to get out and run – the Cougs will need to trust each other and get tight, on-ball defense and know that if they are beat off the dribble, their teammates will have their back.

Over the past month-plus, Bone has talked often about implementing full-court and three-quarter court defensive pressure but even with the deep rotation on Friday, fans didn't get a chance to see that.

"We really haven't gotten that far, unfortunately," said Bone. "We're so caught up in our quarter-court defense right now which is what we feel we need to be concerned with because…that's where it ends, that's where the hoop is.

"We're trying to protect that first and then we'll work ourselves out towards mid-court and three-quarter court. But I think in time we will be a team that can put pressure on others and extend our defense out to three-quarter court and hopefully do some things from there."

Cougfan Top Stories