FROM PULLMAN — A very welcome sight greeted anyone who looked outside today: no snow. For now, anyway. Regardless, the California Golden Bears will be here today for a 3:05 p.m. tip against the Cougars, who will try to knock off a first-place team for the second consecutve game. Read on for some links and some thoughts from WSU coach Ken Bone and players about Cal. It also appears (again) that the football team has found a strength coach.
We have our game advance, which focuses on the handful of familiar names in Cal’s lineup – and the confidence boost WSU received from its win over Stanford on Thursday. But they know they’ve got another tough one tonight. As DaVonte Lacy told me yesterday before practice, “it was good to walk around campus and people telling you good job and stuff, but it was short lived for us because I knew we were done with it after last night.” Still, WSU seemed to have a little extra bounce on Friday, so we’ll see if it carries over this afternoon. I’ll say this: I like the Cougars’ chances if they make 27 more free throws and shoot 72.7 percent for a full 20 minutes again. … The Mercury News has a short scouting report of the Cougars. … CougCenter.com breaks down some statistics from Thursday's win. … On the football side, it appears WSU may have hired a strength coach – though we all know how that goes – with FootballScoop.com reporting that Boston College’s Jason Loscalzo has agreed to join Mike Leach’s staff. Here’s Loscalzo's bio from previous employer Auburn's official athletics site, because Boston College doesn't provide much more than a photo on its own site. … Texas Tech has denied Leach’s request to settle his lawsuit against the school. In that same vein, it appears as if everyone’s favorite ex-ESPN-commentator-turned-attempted-politician Craig James may have given conflicting sworn statements in regards to Leach’s firing from Tech. I don’t think you’re supposed to do that. …
Around the Pac-12: Stanford travels to Washington, with both teams looking to right themselves after hard losses on Thursday. … Oregon hosts UCLA, the Ducks once again playing their tougher weekend opponent on Saturday. Bruins coach Ben Howland got serious with reporters on Friday. … Utah and Arizona State each have their own messes to deal with, though they’ll also have to deal with each other today. … Arizona will be the next Pac-12 team to test its merit against Colorado, which gets a boost from its home crowd. … USC travels to Oregon State, and the Trojans got some bad news about Aaron Fuller’s shoulder – it needs surgery. He’ll miss the rest of the season.
Here's the conference schedule today:
UCLA at Oregon, 1 p.m. (FSN); Arizona State at Utah, 2 p.m. (Prime Ticket); Arizona at Colorado, 3 p.m. (FSAZ/RTRM); California at Washington State, 3 p.m.; Stanford at Washington, 3 p.m. (Root), USC at Oregon State, 7:30 p.m. (Root)
WSU coach Ken Bone on facing California …
(What can Thursday's win do for this team?) “Being it was only our second conference win, but against a real quality team, it was timely, to say the least, but it doesn’t get any easier having Cal in here tomorrow then heading to Arizona to play down there, two on the road. But I think it boosts our confidence. It should. I thought a number of our kids played really well at times during the game, not just certain guys that might have scored points but just other guys that really contributed in other ways.”
(Did they take a step forward in terms of learning how to win?) “I think so because it shows what we are capable of doing on any given night, and it’s not easy to do. We shot spectacular from the free throw line, we shot spectacular in the second half but at the end of the day we won the game and it gives us hope and I think it gives us a light at the end of the tunnel that we can win some games and we can be a really good team, but we’re going to really have to click on all cylinders most every night to do it.”
(Is that what you've been waiting to see out of Faisal in terms of shot selection?) “He needs to look for opportunities to score inside the arc. He’s also good at driving to the hole and he’s a very good free throw shooter, so he can’t limit himself with just 3-pointers. So it was good to see that.”
(Has that been your message to him?) “My message to him is always take good shots. That’s always been my message to him, just play within the system and take good shots. Now, that varies on how you’re feeling and how you’re doing. Last night he really had it going, so what’s a good shot some nights if he’s missed three or four in a row, then he takes another tough shot, it’s not a good shot. Last night obviously he was really feeling it so some of those shots that were maybe a little off-balance or pushing the envelope a little bit as far as with the shot clock and everything else, he was obviously in a rhythm so we let him go at that point.”
(On Cal guard Jorge Gutierrez) “He’s really good, no doubt about that. The best thing about him is he’s just an absolute warrior.”
(On Cal's backcourt) “Their backcourt’s good, they don’t have Solomon but he’s only averaging like (18) minutes a game. They’re very solid inside, too. That’s why they’re the number one team in the conference right now. They can beat you a lot of ways, inside or outside, with their offense or with their defense. They’re good.”
(On the second-half adjustment against Josh Owens, and whether that can carry over against Cal's interior players) “I think our guys did a good job of fronting him and trying to get the ball out of his hands, because obviously when he caught it he was as efficient as you can be, but he’s a beast insde and again that’s what we’re facing tomorrow night. They’ve got a couple guys on their team too that are big and strong and really good in the paint.”
(Is their inside game the biggest matchup problem for you guys?) “I hate to say just the inside because, boy, you concentrate on the inside and they can hurt you from the perimeter. Crabbe can just light it up, cobbs (is) good, Gutierrez is good, Brandon Smith comes in and he’s good. Again, they’re a team that can hurt you a lot of ways.”
FRESHMAN GUARD DAVONTE LACY
(On California) “They don’t have anybody that is just going to jump out the page and be a lottery pick, but they’re really experienced and they’re really solid fundamentally, that’s why they’re winning a lot of games and that’s why they’re picked to go to the tournament, because they’re so experienced, with Gutierrez back there, Crabbe only being a sophomore he plays like he’s a senior. They won’t get flustered and stuff like that, so we’ve got to come out and just play as hard as we can and hopefully get the win.”
(On facing Gutierrez for the first time) “If he brings it, I’m going to bring it too. He’s a great player, so I’m excited to play against one of the better guards in the conference and see where I’m at.”
(On proving to themselves they can play with quality teams) “We always knew we could compete with anybody in the conference. I think it was more for our fans to believe in us, because we believe that we can compete with anybody, so I think it showed our fans that when we say it that we really mean it and we came out and showed it on Thursday. Now I think everyone is going to take our word for it, finally, and hopefully we can keep playing like it and get some wins here, two wins in Arizona and come back home against UCLA and USC. We’ve got a stretch where we can go 6-0. I fully believe that we will go 6-0.”
SENIOR G/F ABE LODWICK
(On getting a boost from Thursday) “Wins make everything better. It’s the same team, but when you win games, everyone’s got a little pep in their step. Everyone’s a little more focused in practice. Just like losing has a snowball effect, winning does too, so we’re going to try to keep it rolling.”
(On needing Thursday's result as proof that their work can pay off) “It showed us that there is benefits for working hard. We’ve been working hard, we’ve lost games but we’ve been working hard even when we’re losing. Just reminding guys how hard it is to get a win at home in the conference. Last night wasn’t easy, but when you play that hard, good things happen. Every one in conference is a special one, so we need to keep it rolling.”
(On Cal) “They’ve got a lot of good veteran leadership on their team, they’ve got some good young guys too. They beat up on UW, too, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”
CAL PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jorge Gutierrez (14.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists) — The senior guard seems as if he's been at Cal since about 1996, but thankfully for everyone else in the conference, this is his final year. He's a solid defender who can drive, shoot and make his free throws, and has the patience and experience necessary to combat WSU's zone defense.
Allen Crabbe (15.8 points, 44.9 percent from 3-point range) — Bone wasn't kidding when he said Crabbe can light it up. He could be a zone killer if the Cougs don't close out and keep a hand in his face at all times. That 44.9 percent clip ranks fourth in the conference, and it's no fluke, either — Crabbe has attempted more threes than anyone in the Pac-12 except for Ahmad Starks.
Harper Kamp (9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) — He's not having his best season, statistically, but he's still dangerous enough to hurt WSU on the interior. You have to like the way the Cougars responded to Josh Owens' domination on Thursday. No, they never stopped him from scoring once he caught the ball. But they did what they had to do to keep the ball out of his hands. Don't sleep on Kamp. He could be just as effective.