Kent still teaching Cougs the matchup zone

PULLMAN — After 26 games in the 2014-15 season, there’s still a learning curve for the Washington State men’s basketball team. Maybe not so much on the offensive side, but on defense. Ernie Kent and staff are still in the process of teaching the matchup zone to the Cougs.

“We’re really not running a matchup zone per se right now,” Ernie Kent said. “When you look at what we ran at Colorado State, St. Mary’s and even at Oregon, we haven’t really run that with this group.”

Instead the Cougars have been running more of a 2-3 type of zone. Kent said the 1-2-2 matchup zone is more about putting extreme pressure on the ball and can be disguised as a man type of defense.

“This team is not equivalent to do that yet,” Kent said. “That might be a future team down the road, but at least we got the principles in (so) that next year the running game will be better, the defense will be better. Things will be better because guys will have a better feel for what it is we’re talking about, terminology and what we’re doing.”

Though the Cougars had their struggles defensively with containing the Huskies yesterday, Kent gave credit to junior forward Junior Longrus for his performance on the defensive end.

“He played really, really well in the game,” Kent said. “Looking at film this morning, (he) covered for a lot of mistakes for people (on defense), played hard in the game. He did a really good job for us.”

The first-year WSU head coach touched on how important it is for the entire five guys on the floor to be effective on the defensive side, rather than just one player.

“You could literally have four guys do everything right on defense, and that fifth guy who forgets to rotate or forgets to block out (and that) could cost you the possession,” Kent said. “That happens to us more times than people know, because we can go back and look at film and see it….it’s just too much slippage on that side of the ball right now.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the Cougars did run a lot of successful set plays against the Huskies. That is dictated by the type of opponent.

“I’m running more now because you’re in a second time going around and playing people, you want to do things differently so they can’t sit on your offense. And I thought we were really good offensively in the game yesterday,” Kent said.

Kent added since the Cougars had success in the transition game against the Huskies in Seattle, Washington worked hard to make WSU play more half court offense.

The Cougars have a short week to prepare for their final road trip of the season. The Cougars will travel to Los Angeles this week. First up is a matchup Wednesday against USC at 7 p.m. PST televised on Pac-12 Networks. WSU will then play its final road game of the regular season on Sunday against UCLA, a game shown on Fox Sports 1. Kent wasn’t worried about his team’s physical ability. Instead, he’s focusing on the mental side.

“We’ve done a good job in the last month I would say of really paying attention to their legs and not running them too hard -- more or less the competition is the conditioning…,” Kent said. “It’s the mental part that we really have to watch and make sure we stay tuned in because that’s where the slippage is.

“I would expect by the time they put on that coat and tie and got on that plane and land in sunny Southern California and jumped off and put their feet on that soil, I would think they would have a smile on their face (with) tremendous energy and we need to get after USC.”

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Kent said the reason junior guard Brett Boese did not see action against Washington was because of the Huskies’ athleticism and because since redshirt senior guard Dexter Kernich-Drew and redshirt sophomore Que Johnson are both playing at high levels. Boese, who was on a shooting tear earlier, has cooled off considerably and that’s made it tougher for Boese to get in the rotation.

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