Another road game, another lineup. Yes, if there is one thing you can count on this season, it’s that WSU will adjust its starting lineup to fit the competition. And tonight the competition is Stanford, a team that usually starts three players 6-foot-7 and taller. Read on how the Cougars will counter.
• All week long Tony Bennett and his staff we’re thinking of starting Caleb Forrest at the power forward and Daven Harmeling at the small forward. But the more they thought about it, the more they worried about Forrest’s ability to match up with Stanford 6-8 senior Lawrence Hill. So today Bennett moved DeAngelo Casto back into the lineup, playing the 4 and drawing the assignment of guarding the athletic Hill. If you remember, Casto started against Oregon State, picked up two early fouls and didn’t play much. The Cougars are taking a calculated bet it won’t happen again.
That leaves Aron Baynes on 6-10 Will Paul, who made his first start in Pullman but has started all but one game since, and Harmeling on 6-7 Landry Fields, the Cardinal’s leading rebounder who attacks the offensive glass hard. Harmeling’s shooting may be off, but the senior’s defense might be at its highest level in his five years at WSU. He did an excellent job on Chase Budinger in Tucson, forcing one of the Pac-10’s best scorers into tough shots that wouldn’t fall. When Harmeling went to the bench with four fouls in the second half is when the Wildcats took off. Harmeling was the only Cougar with a positive plus/minus ratio (meaning while he was on the floor, WSU outscored UA).
• Otherwise the matchups should be the same as in Spokane, with Klay Thompson on Mitch Johnson, who has yet to hit a 3-pointer against WSU in his career, and Taylor Rochestie on Anthony Goods. We’ll see what type of counters Stanford will run tonight to get its players going.
• Offensively, look for WSU to pound the ball inside to Aron Baynes tonight. The Cougars have been running entries for Baynes for a while lately and should feature the big guy tonight. The Cardinal, embarrassed by their impotent defensive performance against UCLA last week, should pick up the pressure – not like Arizona with a trapping zone, but maybe with the same intensity – and try to force WSU out of its comfort zone. If WSU can take care of the ball - where have we heard that before? – they should get decent shots.
• That’s it for now. We’ll be back at halftime with some thoughts. Till then …