Coug fans make no secret of their favorites

SEATTLE – For the second time in as many games, Caleb Forrest took an inspired step toward becoming the undisputed darling of the crimson faithful -- though there's no ceding that DeAngelo Casto looks to be the fan-favorite-in-waiting.

Forrest, the senior forward from Colorado, played 18 hustling minutes Saturday at Key Arena in Washington State's 70-51 win over Montana State. When he capped off his work with a swinging-from-the-rim dunk late in the second-half -- set up by a nifty pass from Nikola Koprivica -- the 7,848 observers voiced their appreciation loudly.

As well they should have. Forrest, as Tony Bennett likes to say, isn't a picture of grace on the court. He's more gangly than gangbusters.

But facts are facts. The guy runs hard, has a knack for offensive rebounds, plays tough team defense, and has a rather feathery stroke. More than anything, though, you sense he'd charge through a brick wall if Tony Bennett made the call.

"Hey, Jerry. Watch number 52," a fan in Row 1 was overheard saying on Saturday. "He doesn't have an athletic bone in his body but he's a real gamer."

Overstatement, certainly. But as if on key, Forrest ripped down a rebound, elbows wide, to fend off a tenacious Bobcat. You could see the fight and fury on Forrest's face.

He finished the night with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. He pulled down 5 rebounds, dished off 1 assist and made 1 block. All in 18 minutes. That's some serious ouput. Put that kind of production on a factory line and you have a permanent employee of the month.

Last Wednesday, in the forgettable loss to Gonzaga, Forrest scored 9 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked a shot -- in a season-high 26 minutes of playing time. He and Casto (10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks) were the lone bright spots in the loss.

The crimson faithful have taken notice. Saturday against MSU, they cheered with extra gusto each time Forrest made a play. The swinging dunk, plus two swift left-handed layins, put their affection for Forrest into overdrive.

In a season that looks to hold more uncertainty than a Taylor Rochestie jumpshot right now, Forrest is an island of stability. No flash, not a lot of dash. Just a workmanlike mentality that gets things done.

Casto appears made of the same fiber. And fans have taken notice of him as well. Just as with Forrest, the faithful put an extra octave in their cheers each time the Spokane freshman made a play.

Against the Bobcats he finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in 17 minutes on the court.

"I just love DeAngelo," said a 50-something woman outside Key Arena after the game. "He plays so hard. That guy never stops. He is sooooo good."

Indeed, the touted rookie with the big-time upside, plays with the same nose-to-the-grindstone mentality as another guy you may have heard of. A guy named Caleb Forrest.

The Cougars, now 7-3 on the season, have just two non-conference games left before opening the Pac-10 season at home on Jan. 3 against Washington. They play Idaho next Sunday and then travel to LSU on Dec. 28 to battle Trent Johnson's Bayou Bengals.

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