A couple notes from Tony Bennett’s teleconference this morning, along with notes about a former Cougar football assistant and football recruiting. Read on.
• There wasn’t anything in the way of a surprise from Bennett’s teleconference. He talked in great detail about the loss at LSU, from the meltdown near the end to Aron Baynes first-half foul trouble to Daven Harmeling’s zero in the box score’s shot-attempts category.
Bennett tried to put his best spin on the final 9 minutes in Baton Rouge, saying his team’s play the first 11 minutes of that half was excellent. And that was 11 minutes longer than against GU. But he also admitted the Cougars are still searching for sound guard play down the stretch against good teams. Such play has been one of the keys for WSU in the past few years, most notably in the seven consecutive wins against Saturday’s opponent, UW. The Huskies have been getting improved play out front this year, so Bennett expects his guards to be tested like they were against Pitt, Baylor, Gonzaga and LSU. He also went out of his way to praise LSU’s ability to make tough shots down the stretch, though he finished his comments here by saying “I don’t feel we made them beat us.”
Bennett felt his team covered well for the loss of Baynes in the first half last weekend, especially on the defensive end. But he knows the Cougars need Baynes on the floor against Pac-10 competition, so he has to avoid the cheap fouls – like the two he was whistled for in the first half at LSU.
As for Harmeling, Bennett said he didn’t pass up any open shots against the Tigers. He tempered that by saying he told Harmeling he needs to hunt his shot more – a term Bennett used a lot last year when talking about Derrick Low – and he didn’t do a great job of that against LSU. He thinks a big part of Harmeling not shooting was the Tigers’ defense. They didn’t give the senior a real good look.
Bennett also had praise for Caleb Forrest recent play. He believes the entire senior class is doing an excellent job leading off the floor and at practice. But he believes they need to step up and execute better during games. The margin of error is small, he said, so everyone has to be sound for 40 minutes.
As for the Pac-10 race, Stanford’s recent rout of Texas Tech was a real eye-opener, Bennett said. It just shows how every team in the conference is capable of an impressive nonconference win. There might not be the powerhouses and marquee players of past years, but the Pac-10 is still a power conference with tests every night.
• One last note. Former WSU assistant Timm Rosenbach was in Los Cruces this week talking with New Mexico State about an assistant coaching position, according to the story I linked. It seems odd he would be interviewing for an assistant spot when the head coach still hasn’t been announced. But that seems to be what’s happening.
As for football recruiting, the Cougars probably have less than a handful of scholarships available. They have 17 commits, according to the scouting services, which leaves just eight initials to hand out. Three of them will go to grayshirts, including JC transfer Josh Luapo and two freshmen linemen, Tim Hodgdon and Alex Reitnouer, all of whom will enroll next month (probably along with at least one of the 17 commits, JC tight end Peter Tuitupou). There should be two or three current players, possibly including linebacker Myron Beck and kicker Nico Grasu, given rides. Any player given a scholarship who hasn’t been on campus for at least two years counts against this year’s initials, with Beck and Grasu fitting in that category. So my guess is there is room for about five or so more players, with the Cougars possibly offering more than that and asking the excess to grayshirt.
• That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow. Till then …