An 11 day layoff comes to end tonight when Washington State tips against The Citadel in the Cougar Hardwood Classic in Seattle at 7:30 pm. The extended break is just one of the factors that has Bennett cautioning his squad against any expectations of a comfortable win.
"All you have to do is watch us to know we don't blow people out, it's not our way" said Bennett, whose team has trailed at the break three times this season. "When we play a team like The Citadel, those guys will be very sound (fundamentally). With our system, we'll have to battle them. I think they've played against some high level talent so they're not going to be overwhelmed by us or Key Arena."
The Cougs have been both dazzling and slightly above average at times this season, depending on if they play their game. In the Gonzaga win, where the Cougs held the 'Zags under 30 percent at their house, the Cougs looked like a Final Four squad. As stout as they were defensively in Spokane, Bennett said they were just as deficient the next time out against Portland State.
Still, The Citadel is expected to start all freshmen, with only one non-freshman in uniform. But to cover the whopping 33 point spread, the Cougars, who are scoring just under 70 points per game, would have to hold The Citadel to 37 points or less.
Even for defensive minded Wazzu, holding teams to an average of 52 points this season -- second in the nation -- and with an average margin of victory of 17 points, that would appear a tall order.
And if the Cougars should need any motivation against The Citadel, they need look no further than their last outing. Granted, the lackluster 72-60 win over Portland State came on the heels of win over Gonzaga and the end of a long stretch -- the Cougs were tired and needed a break. But it's safe to say Bennett would have rather been back in action before now.
Bennett used the long layoff as an opportunity to focus more on the individual improvement -- ball handling, shooting, last second situations and to get his players fresh mentally and physically.
"That's a pretty long period of time...but you use (the break) that way and with them being more experienced and veteran, hopefully they handle that well," said Bennett.
The rotation: Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Nikola Koprivica.