Bone sizes up Gonzaga

KEN BONE REPEATEDLY has praised former coach Tony Bennett for leaving him DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson. But even the first-year Washington State coach is a little surprised with just how well Thompson has performed through six games.

"I am a little bit because of his personality," Bone said during his weekly news conference. "He's such a quiet, unassuming young man. When we say, 'Look to shoot,' he really understands that. I'm really glad he's embraced the role."

Thompson earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for a second consecutive time after he scored 43 points in a 93-56 win Saturday against San Diego in the championship game of Great Alaska Shootout. He broke former Purdue star Glenn Robinson's tournament record of 41 points in 1993 against Portland and tied Guy Williams for third on the Cougars' list for most points in a game. Thompson is averaging a nation-best 28.3 points per game.

"We played well, but was it just because of Klay?" Bone said. "All in all, I think we are doing a good job. We all know things get a lot tougher immediately."

THAT BEGINS AT 6 p.m. Wednesday when WSU (6-0) plays No. 17 Gonzaga (5-1) at the McCarthey Athletic Center (FSN will televise). The Cougars lead the series 97-46, but have won just two of the last 10 meetings between the schools. Gonzaga handed the Cougars their largest loss of last season under Bennett, 74-52, at Friel Court.

Bone said he expects the Bulldogs to use different schemes to contain Thompson, including a box-and-one.

"They've been known to throw some wrinkles," said Bone, who guided Portland State to a 77-70 win last year at Gonzaga. "We understand Klay is our best shooter and scorer. Everyone does."

But Bone said he thinks opponents are aware of Thompson and still have struggled to stop him. After all, Thompson averaged 12.5 points per game as a freshman and was selected along with Casto to the 12-member 2009 USA U19 National Team in June.

"Maybe there's even more of a target on his back," Bone said. "I don't think it was any big secret prior to the season that he was our shooter; he was our guy."

HE INITIALLY HOPED that San Diego, which is coached by former Gonzaga assistant Bill Grier, would create a "perfect scenario" to prepare for the Bulldogs. Bone no longer thinks that is the case.

"There's a little difference between Gonzaga and San Diego right now," he said. "We're playing a lot better team. Gonzaga is a whole different monster."

Graduations and early entry into the NBA draft cost the Bulldogs four of their top five scorers from last season. Josh Heytvelt (14.9 points per game), Austin Daye (12.7), Jeremy Pargo (10.2) and Micah Downs (9.6) all are gone. But under 11th-year coach Mark Few, Gonzaga reloads rather than rebuilds. The Bulldogs never have won fewer than 23 games in a season during his tenure.

"It doesn't matter if they tweak this or that, they are really good," Bone said. "They're always changing offensively and defensively to fit their program."

REPLACING THE OFFENSIVE production of the players who departed has not been an issue for Gonzaga yet. It begins with 6-foot-5 senior guard Matt Bouldin, who averages 16.2 points per game. Bone described Bouldin as "clever" and said he can expect defensive adjustments throughout the game.

Junior guard Steven Gray (15.8) gives the Bulldogs another productive outside shooter. He has converted 40.6 percent of his 3-pointers.

In addition to those players, Gonzaga has a low-post threat in 7-foot sophomore Robert Sacre (14.3). He has hit 57.7 percent of his field goals. And 6-foot-7 freshman forward Elias Harris (12.7) also averages 7.7 rebounds per game.

"Those big guys -- that's a huge reason why they're ranked," Bone said. "Harris can step out and shoot, handle it and pass. They just keep coming at you with their bigs."

IN ADDITION TO those factors, the 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center is known as a hostile environment for visitors. Only three teams -- Santa Clara (2007), WSU (2007) and Portland State -- have won in the building that opened in 2004. The Cougars' four primary guards -- Marcus Capers, Michael Harthun, Reggie Moore and Xavier Thames -- are freshmen and sophomores.

"I'll be disappointed if the crowd gets us to turn it over," said Bone, adding that he was impressed with his team's composure against San Diego. "They don't step out on the court do they? We go to some other loud places this year and we're going to need to learn to handle it."

Bone views the Gonzaga game as an opportunity for his team, which picked up four votes in the latest Associated Press poll, to distinguish itself.

"I'm excited for our guys," he said. "It's good -- it's exactly what we need. It's time to take a step forward and play good competition. We can find out what we're made of at this point."

The Cougars then play at 6 p.m. Saturday at KSU. The Wildcats advanced to the second round of the National Invitational Tournament last season after playing in the NCAA Tournament in 2007-08. Frank Martin's team is off to a 5-1 start and has four players who average at least 11 points per game.

"We're trying to prepare ourselves for the Pac-10 season and Gonzaga and Kansas State prepare us for that," Bone said.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Some national analysts pegged Australian freshman forward Brock Motum as one of the Pac-10's top newcomers. But Motum is averaging just three points in less than 6 minutes per contest. Bone said some of that has to do with the production of Nikola Koprivica and Abe Lodwick at power forward. But he said the 6-foot-9, 205-pound Motum also needs to get stronger.

    "Brock needs the weight room," Bone said. "It's a little different game here in the United States. But he's going to be good."

  • Besides watching some of Washington's 63-59 win Sunday against Montana, Bone said he has not had much of an opportunity to see the Cougars' Pac-10 foes.

    "Right now we have bigger fish to fry in our own program," he said. "I'm really more concerned about our guys and what we can get out of Gonzaga."


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