But while many are focusing on sophomore Klay Thompson's shooting woes, Cougars coach Ken Bone also noted center DeAngelo Casto's recent struggles during his Tuesday news conference.
Casto, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, has not scored in double figures since he had 16 points in a 78-76 win Jan. 8 at Arizona. He scored on a twisting layup to earn the victory with one-tenth of a second remaining in that contest.
WSU (14-7 overall, 4-5 conference) hosts Arizona State at 7 p.m. Thursday (no TV) and Arizona at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports Net). The two arguably are the most difficult tandem left on the schedule. The Sun Devils (15-7, 5-4) and Wildcats (12-9, 6-3) are tied for first and second in the Pac-10.
BONE SAID HE needs to do a better job with both Casto and Thompson, who combined for 11 points in a 92-64 loss Saturday at Washington, to increase their production. Thompson has shot a combined 7 of 32 from the field as WSU has lost its last two games.
"We need to create some opportunities for them to be more successful," Bone said. "They've proven over time that they are really, really good players."
He was asked if Casto, who had offseason surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, is tired. Bone said he feels the coaches and trainers have "managed his health pretty well." He said Casto was limited to halfcourt offense to avoid tiring him during Monday's practice.
Bone said he has talked with Thompson and noted that his pupil has improved in other aspects of his game, such as rebounding, lately. On the shooting end, Thompson is the focus of the defense and Bone believes that along with a lack of confidence has created problems.
"I don't think it's his technique," he said. "We're trying to get him where he's getting better looks at the hoop. Once he gets his confidence back, he will be fine."
CASTO AND THOMPSON were just part of several issues when WSU was outscored 56-24 in the second half by the Huskies. Bone cited transition defense and rebounding as the two biggest areas where his team needs to improve.
"Right now, for the remainder of this season, we need to stay locked in mentally," he said. "There's times where we have to dig in defensively."
Bone was asked if pairing another post player with Casto might solve the defensive rebounding issue. He said that it could, but replacing senior Nikola Koprivica and sophomore Abe Lodwick at power forward with another player could make his team more susceptible to the press and trapping defenses.
"When you put two posts players out there, you're taking away a skilled four man," he said. "It affects other parts of our game."
LODWICK STARTE EVERY game at that position before the UW game, when he was replaced by Koprivica. Bone said he "could not be more proud" of Koprivica, but was noncommittal about whether he would start this week.
"The reason we made the change was his ball-handling skills against a team of Washington's caliber," he said. "Whether he starts or Abe starts, I think they both will get their normal minutes."
Transition defense is the other issue Bone has encountered. He said some of that is the result of the coaching staff asking freshman point guard Reggie Moore to penetrate because of his strength in that area. But when Moore does that, Bone said his teammates need to do a better job of rotating back.
Bone said he also takes criticism for some of his team's problems in transition and on defense.
"There were a few times late in the second half where we just hit a wall," he said. "That falls on me as a coach. I need to get guys out of the game before they hit that point."
Before UW, ASU handed the Cougars their worst loss of the season, 71-46, on Jan. 10. WSU shot just 29.8 percent from the field during their first loss against the Sun Devils since 2006. Bone credited ASU for running a touch matchup zone under coach Herb Sendek, and said movement and taking good shots will be keys for his team.