Bone looks for rebound against Vandals

THE COUGARS LOST a pair of very different games last week. They started well against Gonzaga before faltering down the stretch. And they fell behind early as they struggled against Kansas State's pressure. Coach Ken Bone examines those issues, Klay Thompson's sudden struggles and the implementation of his motion offense.

Coaches often look at how their teams respond after a tough road loss.

That will be no different when the Cougars host Idaho at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Friel Court for more reasons than one.

Washington State coach Ken Bone said during his Tuesday news conference that Idaho is the most similar team to Kansas State that the Cougars have faced.

Kansas State defeated WSU 86-69 on Saturday.

HE SAID THE Vandals (5-2) are aggressive defensively, particularly in the passing lanes. KSU employed a similar defensive philosophy that was disruptive to the Cougars, who committed 25 turnovers.

"Kansas State was a whole different ball game," Bone said. "They had never been in a situation like that playing against guys that are a little quicker and stronger. They're way more aggressive. It's hard to simulate that in practice let alone a game."

He felt WSU (6-2) performed much better after they adjusted. The Cougars trailed 46-29 at halftime, but both teams scored 40 points in the second half.

THE SCENARIO WAS different than Wednesday's 74-69 loss at Gonzaga. WSU led 58-46 on a field goal by freshman point guard Reggie Moore with 10 minutes, 32 seconds left. But with the exception of three field goals by Klay Thompson, no other Cougars made a shot until Xavier Thames' 3-pointer just before the game ended.

Bone said he elected to stick with his starters because they were playing well rather than rotating in substitutes. He was concerned that his reserves would not be able to keep up with Gonzaga. Three players -- sophomores Marcus Capers (31), DeAngelo Casto (35) and Thompson (39) -- logged more than 30 minutes.

"After watching that video a couple of times, I think more of it (the loss) falls on myself than the kids," Bone said. "I thought there would be enough timeouts and dead ball situations.

"We don't have the depth that I feel we need to compete with a team of that level for 40 minutes. We just physically ran out of gas."

BONE SAID HE was happy with how his team handled difficult crowds at Gonzaga and KSU.

"I think they handled the situation well both times as far as the venue, crowd and everything else," he said. "I don't think that was a factor in either game."

WSU features only one upperclassmen, senior forward Nikola Koprivica, on its roster. Bone said the experience of these last two games will ultimately help his team. He cited Thompson, who averaged a nation-best 28.3 points per game, before Gonzaga. Thompson scored a combined 37 points in the last two games, but converted only 11 of 36 field-goal attempts. He also committed nine turnovers against KSU.

"For the first six games, he played against a certain level of competition," Bone said. "To go against Gonzaga and Kansas State, which can throw bigger, stronger, quicker bodies at him -- and rotate them -- it's a different ball game. He'll get better for it."

THOMPSON WORKED ON his ball handling during the offseason, but Bone said he needs further work in that area.

"I think he's been in the gym each day since we got back from Kansas State working on his ball handling and pressure defense," he said.

Bone said the Cougars will see some teams in the Pac-10, specifically Washington, that will pressure the ball.

"It took time to understand how aggressive Kansas State was going to be," he said. "Everything they did, we had not seen. I think we came out of there a better team."

AND THAT IS exactly what Bone is looking for against the Vandals. He of course knows Idaho is something of a rivalry game, but said he is more concerned about continuing to make progress as WSU adjusts from former coach Tony Bennett's slower style.

Bone said most of his motion offense has not been installed at this point, and does not think it will be finished by the end of the season, as Bone continues to recruit into the program the types of athletes that best fit his style.

"We would like to add a lot of things, but I know that won't happen," he said. "We will continue to add counters to what we already have."

Idaho does not have that problem under second-year coach Don Verlin. The Vandals are led by guards Steffan Johnson (14.0 points per game), Mac Hopson (12.9), who played for WSU in 2006-07 before transferring, and Kashif Watson (11.6).

Bone called Idaho a good, well-coached team, but said they have another motivation to beat the Cougars beyond the rivalry.

"I think that's the same no matter who we compete with, especially on the West Coast," he said. "We're going to get everyone's best shot because a lot of those kids would like to be in the Pac-10."

  • Bone said he was happy with how his team played against Gonzaga for the most part.

    "We showed signs at times we could be pretty good," he said. "The first 30, 32 minutes of the Gonzaga game was pretty impressive. To play a team the caliber of Gonzaga on their home court and compete the way we did ... I was impressed."

  • Freshman forward Brock Motum converted 2 of 3 field goals in 10 minutes against KSU. Bone said he noticed his contributions.

    "He's just gotten better and better since he tripped over his feet in that one game," said Bone, referring to the Nov. 9 exhibition against Lewis-Clark State. "He's made good steps even though he's had minimal minutes."

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