PRACTICE: Cougs look to clean glass at UW

PULLMAN -- Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. It's importance cannot be overstated in Pac-10 basketball, nor emphasized enough for this young WSU squad. Attacking the glass was a main focus in Thursday's practice session. And an electric DeAngelo Casto provided the best evidence to date the effects of an injured knee are soon to be behind him. Read on ...

Sophomore Casto was all over the boards Thursday. Indeed, he was hustling up and down the court like it was his last piece of basketball action in his life.

Casto was also consistent, and in all the facets of what a good post player needs to be on the hardcourt. The Spokane product was rebounding the ball extremely well, blocking shots with consistency, and in prime position and ready to haul down offensive boards for easy put backs.

The highlight of Casto's afternoon was where he showcased his athletic ability on both sides of the ball in one sequence. Following a turnover, freshman Xavier Thames threw an outlet pass to senior Nikola Koprivica who had an easy lay-up waiting for him. But Casto sprinted down the court to swat the ball away. Regaining his balance, Casto sprinted back down the court and was the recipient of a beautiful alley-oop pass from freshman Reggie Moore, and threw down a thunderous two handed slam.

CASTO HAS BEEN a force of nature in some games this season, less than a full factor in others. Is his knee finally fully healed from the injury this past summer?

"My legs are slowly getting back to me -- and I used to be a high flyer before I hurt my knee over in New Zealand so I'm getting back to that," Casto said. "I think Reggie is finding more confidence in that and that's why he threw the lob and you saw that.

It's a continuous process and eventually I'll be back to 100 percent and throwing it down."

THE FOCUS OF Thursday's practice was definitely the teams rebounding play and making sure to get a body on someone.

"If you play good defense for 34 seconds then don't screen out, that's exactly what they (UW) want," preached Ken Bone after an offensive rebound was collected on Thursday.

Casto is well aware of the size UW has in their big men, and said he is expecting a war on Saturday (FSN, 12:30 p.m.) down in the blocks throughout the entire 40 minutes.

UW FEATURES low post players Matthew Bryan-Amaning (7.1 PPG, 5.2 RBG), and 6-6 senior Quincy Pondexter, the Huskies' bellcow who leads the team with 8 rebounds per game, while also averaging nearly 20 ppg.

"Obviously it's going to be a battle in the glass -- I think they are probably the best offensive rebounding team in our conference," said Casto. "They all just crash the boards so I have to do my job of keeping my man off and then after that pursue the ball so it will be a tough assignment."

Washington is averaging nearly 39.6 rebounds per game. The Cougars are averaging nearly four less boards, at 35.7.

BUT IT'S UNREALISTIC unrealistic to expect Casto to be able to shoulder the entire load down low, and WSU has struggled to find a post player to consistently complement his efforts. During his teleconference on Tuesday, Bone said freshman forward Brock Motum could possibly see some more playing time.

On Thursday, the youngster from Down Under was most effective from long range, showing great range with his outside shot and consistently knocking down 3-point attempts and 18 footers. Motum is averaging 6.4 minutes per game with 2.5 PPG.

QUOTABLES:
  • Being a first year freshman, guard Xavier Thames has been introduced to the rivalry that is UW-WSU.

    "It's going to be really exciting playing against Washington," Thames said. "It's going to be a good crowd, it's a big rivalry in college basketball and we'll be ready to come out and play hard.

  • Thames also preached the importance of coming out and getting this tough conference victory on the road, where the Huskies have been dominant. WSU (14-6) is currently tied for third place in the Pac-10 -- with four other teams. One game in the win-loss column separates the third place and tenth place teams.

    "It's going to be very important because we have to get over .500 (Pac-10 play)," Thames said. "We can also put UW in a bad position. They are going to come out hungry and ready to fight because they are 3-5 right now. We have to come out and be aggressive right from the get-go."


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