Beach's Bits - Oklahoma State

SEATTLE - The Washington Huskies face one of the most intriguing match-ups of their early season on Thursday night against Oklahoma State at the Bank of America Arena. The Cowboys enter the game with a 5-2 record; their losses coming at the hands of No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 6 Michigan State. They will be facing a hungry 3-3 Washington team looking to avenge a 25-point blowout loss a season ago.

"They thumped us," observed Washington Captain Jon Brockman, recalling his thoughts on their less-than-stellar performance last season. "They started hitting threes and we didn't have any answer for them. It'll be good to play them here at home, and I'm hoping to see a whole lot of purple here."

The sweet-shooting 'Pokes start four guards and rely on transition buckets and early offense for their scoring: Something the Huskies have struggled to defend against, especially in light of their extraordinary emphasis on offensive rebounding which pulls them out of position for transition defense.

"They're a fast-paced, up and down, 3-point shooting team," explained Brockman. "They've got some great athletes, some great shooters and they can put points up in a hurry. It's going to be a tough game."

When not relying on transition scoring, the Cowboys' offense is predicated on dribble penetration into the lane, their big guards either attacking the basket or kicking out to open shooters after their defenders collapse on the penetrator. Oklahoma State will shoot north of 30 3-point attempts; and they don't miss much, averaging 41 percent from three as a team. The long range barrage isn't limited to just a couple of hot shooters either: Four of the Cowboys' top five scorers have attempted 30 or more 3-pointers.

"If we leave them open and don't have guys covered and don't move well on defense, we're going to end up rebounding the ball out of the bottom of the net," explained Brockman. "You've got to prepare for long rebounds, and you are going to have to move around a lot more to get the boards."

The news isn't all bad for Washington, though. The Cowboys' advantage in the backcourt becomes a gaping hole up front, especially after Tuesday's news that starting center Ibrahima Thomas did not make the trip to Seattle and has quit the team. The 6-foot-11 sophomore was Oklahoma State's only post threat, averaging 8.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. That leaves just 6-foot-6 senior forward Anthony Brown (4.3 points, 3.5 rebounds in 15 minutes per game) and junior 6-foot-5 guard Obi Muonelo (11.7 points, 9.9 rpg) as the Cowboys' only post options. So how do the Cowboys defend Brockman? They probably don't. Without a big body to stop him, the preseason All America candidate could be in for a big night if he can stay out of foul difficulty.

Thomas' departure is the Huskies' gain, and that will allow Washington to use smaller lineups and extend their defense to combat the Cowboys sensational range.

Offensively, Washington will attack the basket and Oklahoma State's 2-3 zone, trying to draw the Cowboys into a more physical game where the Huskies can use their superior size and muscle to their advantage. The Cowboys play a pressure defense similar to the Huskies and often find themselves in foul trouble as a result. Terrel Harris, the Cowboys leading scoring at 17.4 points per game, has garnered four or more fouls in four of their first seven games. With a rotation that just lost their only post presence, they can not afford foul trouble with such a thin lineup.

Forward Quincy Pondexter, coming off a strong 16-point, 12-rebound performance, again finds himself as a key cog in the Huskies' attack. Pondexter's combination of size, versatility and skill make him a match up nightmare for the Cowboys, and he will likely spend significant time at power forward as the home team looks to capitalize on their size advantage in the post.

Darnell Gant, Elston Turner and Justin Holiday should also see plenty of playing time trying to counter the bigger Cowboy guards. Expect the Cowboys to go off from outside and try and give the Huskies fits with their long range firepower. The Huskies should be able to pound away inside. For the Huskies to win, they have to avoid getting into a shootout with OSU, while bullying the Cowboys underneath the hoop. That should eventually wear down their smaller opponent.


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