PULLMAN – When it comes to tonight’s visit by fifth-ranked Kansas State here to face Washington State in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series, the Cougars’ fans have one question.
WSU coach Ken Bone has another.
The fans want to know if sophomore point guard Reggie Moore will play after missing WSU’s first five games – all wins – with a slightly fractured scaphoid bone in his left wrist.
Bone wants to know how tough his team is.
Moore fell earlier in the year and injured the small bone near his thumb. Such injuries can take up to six months to heal and surgery may be required.
But after a couple of weeks in a cast, Moore was evaluated this week and fitted with a splint that was hoped would not only protect his wrist but also allow him to play.
“We don’t know if he will play yet, at all,” Bone said this week. “But the cast is off, there’s a splint on his wrist and we’ll take it day by day.”
Moore participated fully in practice Wednesday and has been listed as probable for tonight’s game, though Bone told ESPN’s Andy Katz he’s extremely doubtful and “I don’t want to risk it. I don’t foresee it unless Reggie comes to me and says he wants to play.”
But even if Moore plays, he will wear the splint and won’t be the player who averaged 12.7 points and 4.2 assists as a freshman – at least not right away.
The status of center DeAngelo Casto is another question for WSU. The 6-foot-8 junior, averaging 9.3 points and five rebounds, has missed the last two games with a sprained foot. He also practiced Wednesday, though not to the extent of Moore.
With or without Moore and Casto, the Cougars will be dealing with a 6-1 Kansas State team that’s only loss was to top-ranked Duke and is considered not only a favorite in the Big 12 but a national title contender.
Guard Jacob Pullen (16 points, 4.1 assists per game) was a preseason All-American. Shooting guard Rodney McGruder averages 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds. And the Wildcats have five players 6-7 or taller who rotate inside, none averaging 22 minutes a game.
“They’re extremely aggressive and very physical team,” Bone said.
The Wildcats, only the third ranked nonconference team not named Gonzaga to play in Pullman, are relentless. They wear an opponent down. In a recent 81-64 win over Gonzaga, K-State held the Zags to six second-half field goals and forced 17 turnovers.
But the Cougars know all about that. In last year’s 86-69 loss in Manhattan, WSU committed 26 turnovers, leading to 39 K-State points.
“Last year I don’t think we went in there and really competed,” Bone said.
Many of those turnovers came early, as the Cougars seemed shocked by Kansas State’s pressure.
Klay Thompson, who entered second nationally in scoring, was 5 of 15 from the floor, 1 of 4 from beyond the arc (WSU was just 1 of 6), had nine turnovers and scored 22 points, half from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats had 19 more shots than the Cougars, partly because of the turnovers and partly from K-State’s 16 offensive boards. Both were a product of the Wildcats’ physical play.
“For us to take a step forward in our program we need to be able to compete against the better teams,” Bone said.
And that takes toughness.
“We don’t have a lot of time to get tough,” Bone said. “We are either tough enough by now and try to compete. Or we’re just not there yet.
“That’s why I’m really anxious for (tonight), just to be able to gauge where we are at as a team.”