Bennett to Cougar bench: Be ready

WASHINGTON STATE will head into Saturday night's league opener against the Huskies with a seven man rotation but it won't be a surprise to see others -- and perhaps two in particular -- beyond that group play some key minutes against Washington. And if Washington State is going to log their sixth straight win over the UW, the bench will need to produce when called upon.

With forward Daven Harmeling out indefinitely with a fractured thumb, Washington State is expected to play G Nic Koprivica (6-6) and F Caleb Forrest (6-8) more. But others are also in the mix.

"Even these practices here leading up to the Washington game, we'll look at different guys," said Bennett. "The game itself sometimes dictates what you need and I think you sometimes have to be able to adjust on the fly. Whether we need to be able to get a stop...or we really need to knock down a three."

That three-pointer off the bench, beyond Koprivica's, may come off the hands of Thomas Abercrombie.

The redshirt frosh has a nice shooting touch and gave fans a glimpse of his overall potential in a blowout win over The Citadel just before Christmas. Jeremy Cross and Stephen Sauls are other options who could see some minutes at guard.

When it comes to the bigs, and adding further intrigue, Forrest (ankle), didn't practice Wednesday though he's expected to play Saturday. Conjecture from the sidelines -- Regardless of what Forrest's availability is, Chris Henry may be in for some key minutes against the UW.

Henry's forte is defense, and he's a big body (6-9, 266) who isn't afraid to throw his weight around -- particularly not in a conference game where the play becomes more physical. Washington State will also need to protect against Aron Baynes getting into foul trouble.

While Baynes playing defense against Jon Brockman, the UW's leading scorer, is a battle hoops fans are salivating for, both UW and WSU are expected to liberally employ other defenders on Baynes and Brockman when they have the ball in the paint. Henry, in stretches, could help to fill that role.

Robbie Cowgill's defense against Spencer Hawes down the stretch last year was crucial in the Cougs' win in Seattle last year but Cowgill also helped out on Brockman at times. True, both Brockman and Hawes had big nights last February but the Cougs held the duo, and the rest of their UW teammates, scoreless for the last 3-plus minutes of that contest to seal the Cougar win.

When Harmeling does return, the Cougs will go back to an eight man rotation but Bennett said the rotation could also become deeper at some juncture depending on what guys show on the practice court and how they perform in games if called upon. One of those opportunities could come on Saturday.

"It would be great maybe to get nine at some point, but I don't know if you go much deeper than that," said Bennett.

Bennett said Washington is playing more physical than they did last season and have also improved defensively, particularly in the defensive backcourt.

"They're really guarding and playing the way I think Lorenzo (Romar) wants them to," said Bennett. "And Brockman has improved, shooting that little short jumper. Just look at how he's playing, he's tremendous," said Bennett.

The Cougs, for their part, lead the nation in scoring defense heading into Pac-10 play at 49.7 ppg allowed.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Washington State has taken some heat for a "soft" non-conference slate but the Cougs have a brutal stretch to open league play. The Pac-10 is generally thought to be the best in the nation this year and the Cougs' first three games against UW, USC and UCLA are all on the road. And it doesn't stop there. "Five out of the first seven (on the road), we're really joyful about that," quipped Bennett. "..But it's just the way the schedule fell and the pros are you're going into a tough environment, you've got to be ready to play and you're going to find out some things about yourself."

  • Bennett said there was still no word from the NCAA on the status of C Fabian Boeke but that he wasn't optimistic the NCAA would rule in the favor of the 6-10 Boeke for this coming year. Members of Boeke's club team in Germany, not including Boeke, received stipends the NCAA determined were above necessary and the Ehingen team was deemed a professional organization by the NCAA. Assuming he sits out this year, Boeke would begin next year with 4-to-play-3.


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