We saw a little Tony Bennett in the Cougars last night as the Cougars laid the smack down on Utah Valley at home to improve to 2-0. It’s something we haven’t really seen around here since Tony Bennett was let go to Virginia 4 years ago, Defense. But it’s more than just playing defense, it’s a particular brand of defense, a sort of suffocation and relentless attitude about contesting even the most un-contestable shots. It’s hounding the ball handler on every dribble and cutting off angles to the basket. It’s fun (if you know what you’re looking for as a fan) to watch actually.
Last night was the first time in the Ken Bone era that I’ve seen an on-ball defender turn 3 times from outside the arc to inside the lane and never once give up a sliver of light to the basket. Last night was the first 5 second call defensively on an opposing dribbler. Last night was the first time I’ve truly seen the Cougs commit to “team rebounding”. It was so impressive to watch and it was extremely encouraging, because that’s the only way we’ll stay competitive this year and I think the team understands that. Now, it wasn’t at all perfect as in the second half the Cougs had trouble cutting down the angles and making plays for probably an 8 minute stretch defensively, but it was heartening.
On the offensive end it was Bennett-style as well: Run when you can and get good shots, but if you can’t run get the best shot possible, even if it runs the shot clock inside of 8 seconds. Brock Motum (who cruised to 15 points) made everything look so easy, while Lacy and Ladd did what they needed by adding 11 and 13, respectively. Royce Woolridge didn’t score a bunch but had 6 assists and only turned it over once.
It was just a fun brand of basketball last night and with the youth of the team right now, it’s only going to get better. The announcers continued to say that they think WSU is a dark-horse in the conference and may be the most ‘end-of-the-year ready’ team in the Pac-12. I don’t know if that’s the case because it’s such a young team, but I do know that this kind of effort and style of play that can make us competitive in the conference. We’ll find out more in the upcoming road swing vs Pepperdine, Kansas and either Texas A&M or St. Louis.