Experience, confidence driving WSU's Shelton

IT MIGHT HAVE felt as if the double-double that Washington State senior D.J. Shelton produced during Saturday's 72-67 win against Washington came out of nowhere. But coach Ken Bone said during his Tuesday teleconference that Shelton's statistical line, which included 20 points and 18 rebounds, was a byproduct of patience after watching his 6-foot-10 forward struggle earlier in the season.

D.J. Shelton, who averages 9.2 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds per game, expressed frustration with the media about criticism he has received from fans this season. Bone, who has been coaching college athletes since he was 26 years old in 1984 at Cal State Stanislaus, said criticism comes with his profession, but added that is easier for him to deal with than his youthful players.

Bone said he and his coaching staff showed Shelton highlights from last season to reinforce his ability when he struggled earlier this season. He said the only area where they suggested that Shelton should be more "selective" was from the 3-point arc, where he has converted just 25 percent of his shots this season. Bone said Shelton has benefited from becoming more confident and experienced.

"A lot of guys when they become seniors there's a sense of urgency," Bone said.

WSU (9-12 overall, 2-7 Pac-12) will need more of that when it opens the second half of conference play at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Colorado (TV: Pac-12 Networks). On Jan. 8, CU defeated the Cougars 71-70 in overtime at Spokane Arena. The Buffaloes (16-6, 5-4) shot 38 free throws in that contest compared with three for WSU.

"Well, compared to the last time, we need to get to the free-throw line a bit," said Bone, when asked about keys to upsetting CU.

Bone feels the Cougars are a better defensive team than they displayed during the previous contest between the programs. He said his players are more comfortable with the schemes that first-year WSU assistant coach Rod Jensen introduced as the season has progressed. UW shot just 43.9 percent from the field during Saturday's game.

"They showed a great amount of energy and excitement running the defense," Bone said of his team.

One player Bone believes is under appreciated in that regard is sophomore forward Junior Longrus. He had just four points and four rebounds against the Huskies, but Bone said Longrus contributes in ways that are not reflected in box scores.

"He's a cerebral player," said Bone, who noted Longrus often deflects several passes during games. "It's indicative of who he is in the classroom. He picks up things quicker than all of us."

Now, Bone hopes the rest of his team can pick up the momentum they gained from their rivalry win and translate it into a successful stretch run into the conference tournament. The victory ended a four-game losing streak.

"We need to be able to take that and build on that," he said.

  • CF.C asked Bone about his plans for the one scholarship he has remaining to use for the 2014 recruiting class. He said the coaches are evaluating several players and "definitely are going to use that scholarship" in the late signing period.

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