In any basketball game there are keys to why the game went the way it did. For Washington State, it’s been a long time since they last won a game and last night’s shocker over UCLA was honestly and truly much different than anything they’ve done this season. Therefore we need to go beyond numbers and break this down into easy terms to understand how they did it and what they need to do to repeat the outcome on Saturday against USC.
- First, the team was patient. Mega patient. Like, so patient that UCLA was frustrated and sick of running around by sometime early in the 2nd half. You could just see they didn’t want to chase any more. Back door after back door after cut after ball screen. It was the most patient by far I’ve seen the team since Ken Bone took over 4 years ago. Basically, it was Dick Bennett ball, but with more constant movement.
- Second, Brock Motum and D.J. Shelton stayed in the post area 80% of the time. Two things came out of this: Rebounds and tip-backs. I have been saying all season long that D.J. Shelton needs to sit his butt in the paint and dominate a game from there. The temptation is to move him around because of his athleticism and he’s been shooting a pretty solid percentage from the arc, but you lose all rebounding presence without him low or at the very least, high block. To me, his athleticism is the very reason you want him down there, because he can out-athlete most people he’s gonna face.
- Third, Ken Bone actually out-coached his counterpart, Ben Howland. While Howland was busy throwing clipboards and calling timeouts, Bone was working the officials and coaching his team up. The Cougs shot 17 less three’s than UCLA and I’ll venture off a cliff and say that’s the first team to out-try WSU from there this season. Somehow Bone finally got his team to stick to a gameplan.
- Fourth, Woolridge showed poise when the Cougs started to get frazzled. There were a couple times when UCLA’s plain ability shown through and in those times there were some very quick runs by the Bruins. Woolridge slowed the tempo down every time and gave his club a leader. Though he’s had an explosive second half of the conference season, it’s the first time we’ve seen him actually take the game over with his demeanor rather than just as an athlete. Guys follow that and it showed last night.
- And finally, the Cougars played defense without fouling. They only committed 11 fouls for the entire basketball game. With only 7 players, it’s easy to get lazy and start to reach out instead of play with your feet. But the Cougs didn’t do that and were rewarded big time.
It might go without saying, but if we do that again on Saturday, we could steal another W and jumped out of the cellar of the conference.