OK, we’re back once again. How has your last hour been? Anyhow, while I was away, I’ve put together a short story on tomorrow’s game with Arizona. The Cougars will be trying to chase down the blur that is known as Nic Wise. They did a good job of it in Arizona, now they have to repeat the task if they want to sweep the season series with the Cats. Read on for that and a short note on WSU’s honoree in the Pac-10’s hall of honor.
• Here’s the story …
PULLMAN – There will be a game within the game tonight at Beasley Coliseum.
The contest itself pits Washington State against Arizona, with the Cougars trying to sweep the season series for only the fourth time.
But buried in that struggle between teams trying to stay alive in the Pac-10 Conference race (WSU is 4-6 while the Wildcats are in a four-way tie for first at 6-4) is a not so visible but crucial battle.
Call it chasing Nic Wise.
“He’s quick, he’s confident, he can drive, he can pull up, he can shoot the 3, and he’s a senior,” said WSU coach Ken Bone of UA’s point guard Friday.
Wise is listed as a 5-foot-10, 180-pound guard. He’s averaging 15.8 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds a game. But there is more to the senior. Much more.
“Whether it’s the first minute of the game or the last minute of the game, he’s really just an outstanding offensive player,” Bone said. “As the game winds down, he’s that guy who wants the ball in his hands, so it becomes critical to try to focus on him.
“But at the same time, he’s a big-time threat as soon as the game starts.”
Wise has won two games with last-second shots. He took over down the stretch in Arizona’s win over Cal last Sunday, lifting the Wildcats to a 76-72 win and into a first-place tie. And he almost carried UA past the Cougars the last time the teams met, despite scoring just 15 points on 5 of 14 shooting.
To contain the engine to Arizona’s offense, WSU will assign 6-4 defensive stopper Marcus Capers the task on one end, then ask point guard Reggie Moore to wear down Wise on the other. It’s a formula that worked well in Tucson.
“He’s a shorter, quicker guard,” said Capers, coming off a career-high 13 points Thursday night in WSU’s 81-70 loss to Arizona State, of the challenge he faces. “Me being long and taller, I know that’s going to bother him, but him being short and quick, that bothers me a lot. He’s also strong. And he stays consistent with his play.”
But Capers won’t be alone. Not only will he get periods of relief when others chase Wise, he’ll also need help from WSU’s bigs as Wise runs through a series of screens, trying to get a little edge when he catches the ball.
“The post players, them giving him that little bump gives me a lot of time to get in front of him,” Capers said. “If I’m in front of him, I feel like he’ll have a way harder chance to score on me than if I’m behind him or the side of him.”
Moore will be looking for his bigger teammates as well.
In the 78-76 win in Tucson – DeAngelo Casto scored the game-winning layup off a Moore assist with a tenth of a second left after Wise had tied the game on the other end – Moore consistently broke down Wise with the dribble, got in the lane and either scored – he had 20 points – or was fouled – he hit 10 of 14 free throws. That didn’t sit well with Wise.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit on Twitter,” Moore said. “He’ll probably be really pumped up. I know I would be.”
Moore expects UA’s bigs to rotate to help better than the last encounter, so he’ll be looking to dish the ball as he gets near the rim.
“That just opens up Klay (Thompson’s) 3 and Nikola (Koprivica’s) 3,” Moore said. “If (the UA bigs) try to step up, I’m just going to try to dump it down to (Casto), like I did at the end of the game.”
• The Cougars’ Pac-10 honoree this year is Paul Lindemann, a 6-7 center who played at WSU in the early 1940s. You can read more about his career here. There will be a short story in the S-R tomorrow.
• That’s all for now. We’ll back in the morning our usual post. Until then …