Well, today, our young Cougies fueled by a second half flurry by Faisel Aden, came back from a 40-39 1st half deficit and beat Mississippi State 83-57.
Want to check out my five key takeways from the game?
(then read on)
In case you all misssed the game, saw the halftime score and panicked, the first half didn’t give a good indication about how the game was going. In spite of being down by 1 at the half, it was pretty clear that WSU controlled the basketball game from the opening tip. MSU stayed in it simply because they were hitting ridiculously deep threes while we were missing foul shots. In addition, we had a couple of HORRIBLE calls against Casto and Moore, the former of which led to a 4 point swing (stemming from a BS technical foul call on Casto) that briefly changed the momentum at the end of the half.
Then, while both teams started the second half slow, the Cougs used 8 points from Aden starting at the 16:00 mark to build a 13 point lead that would never get below double digits the rest of the way.
Onto the Key Takeways:
1. Dual Threat. After Sunday’s yuck-fest against the Steve Nashes, I said that for us to beat MSU, Faisel Aden needed to find his stroke. Well, today Aden complemented his 8 first half points with a barrage of jumpers and drives in the first ten minutes of the second half and finished with 20 points. On top of that, Thompson had 17 points in the first and finished with 28. Simply put, when both of our scorers get it going like that, it opens the floor up for everyone. And when that happens, we are awfully tough to beat.
2. Marcus the Wildcat? For most of the game, Marcus Capers looked like he was capable of jumping straight from the Arena onto the summit of an Island Volcano. Don’t know about any of you, but I can’t remember seeing a Cougar who doubles as the prototypical wing for the Kentucky Wildcats. While I am still not sure how far this team will go this year, Marcus’ athleticism provides some serious optimism that we will match up on the perimeter with anyone in the country.
3. Four to Score. As we talked about following the Gonzaga game, when all things are clicking, we have enough scorers on this team to compete with just about anyone. What is sometimes missing from this group are a key offensive plays from the front court–which is especially important in opening up lanes to the basket for Klay and Moore. Well, tonight, Abe Lodwick hit a couple of spot-up threes that really opened things up lanes for our scorers. Whether its Abe, Motum, or Simon, we need one of our fours to feel it over the next five games if we’re going to emerge as a real threat/contender for the conference and the tourney.
4. Don’t Zone Out. As I also noted at the end of the Santa Clara game, the more we play zone defense (and the less we play man), the better. Today, we saw us mainly in a base, match-up zone. And boy did it look good. Nice help, nice clogging of the passing lanes. Like the days of Bennett ball, that defense is always going to be prone to getting lit up by a barrage of threes. But, over the course of the game, its a really, really nice fit for us. Bravo, Kenny B and staff for going with that look. It works.
5. Transitional Year. The turnovers that we generate through the match-up zones make this team a real terror in transition. Not only do we have three to four guys on the court who can push it, we also tend to have four guys on the break who can finish it. Today, ESPNU did a nice job of telestrating some of the wrinkles that we run off of the break (Klay running around the baseline to spot up for a three on the weak side elbow–set up by a screen from the weak side trailer). But even more than that, our ability to either take the ball directly to the rack or spot up from three makes defending our transition game a total nightmare. I, for one, am really interested in seeing how our transition game fares against more elite backcourts (like SC, Washington, and to a certain extent–Butler if we play them).
All in all a very good start to what figures to be an important week ahead. I’ll be back tomorrow for a really brief look at Baylor as well as a prediction on what figures to be as important of a game as we will play during the regular season.
Until later. Go Cougs.