Bone considers lineup changes
PULLMAN – What do 17-7, 28-8 and 10-2 have in common?
Those are the deficits, in chronological order, Washington State University has faced at the outset of its last three men’s basketball games.
So it was little wonder last Saturday night, after WSU had found a way to rally from a game-opening 10-2 blitz and a second-half-starting 6-0 run to defeat Stanford 77-73, that Cougars coach Ken Bone said he was contemplating lineup changes.
“I really don’t care to juggle the lineup too often,” Bone said this week. “I think more and more it just kind of messes with kids’ heads and they’re wondering about starting and not starting, and I don’t want that to be an issue.
“But the way we’ve performed here recently at beginning of halves, there might need to be a change.”
“Might” being the operative word. With WSU (3-3 in a muddled Pac-10 Conference) fighting for a postseason invitation, Bone isn’t sure he wants to break up a formula – guards Reggie Moore, Klay Thompson and Marcus Capers and inside players DeAngelo Casto and Abe Lodwick – that has started all but two games.
“It’s still up in the air,” Bone said Tuesday of a decision. “My guess is that we won’t make a change, but there’s that chance. We’re definitely taking a good look at it.”
Bone mentioned moving freshman guard Xavier Thames, who had five assists and no turnovers against Stanford, into the lineup instead of either Moore, the Cougars’ second-leading scorer, or Capers.
Or he might start bringing Casto off the bench, giving James Watson or Charlie Enquist a chance to start.
Or he could move sixth-man Nik Koprivica in for Lodwick, though Bone admitted Koprivica, WSU’s lone senior, might be more comfortable in a reserve role.
The Cougars make the Los Angeles trip this weekend, starting tonight at USC’s Galen Center. With the physical, athletic, defense-oriented Trojans – the one Pac-10 team with wins over ranked foes – waiting, tonight might not be the night for Bone to make a change.
“We won the game the other day, so it’s not like things are falling apart, but there are certain segments of the game where we need to get better at,” Bone said. “And it appears sometimes it’s at the beginning of each half.”
Koprivica has picked up his game in his final season, averaging 8.6 points a game, shooting a Pac-10-best 48.9 percent behind the 3-point arc, and pulling down 4.4 rebounds.
And he brings something else.
“Nik has shown he can come into games right away and help us out,” Bone said of Koprivica, usually the first WSU player off the bench.
Recently, he’s entered the action and filled in at one of two positions, allowing Bone to use different combinations.
“Nik has been able to come in and play two different positions, which really helps us,” Bone said. “If we need to give Klay a breather, Nik is the one who’s been going to the 3 spot. And if we need him at the 4, we can put him at the 4.
“Having that flexibility is kind of nice.”
Though playing Koprivica off the bench has a tradeoff.
“Nik might be a little more of a leader if he was starting,” Bone said. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader even though he’s a senior, sometimes it’s difficult to be a leader if you’re not one of the starting five.”
Still, Koprivica has found a way.
“In all fairness, he’s been a leader in his own way,” Bone said. “He’s been a good leader by example, he’s had a great attitude, he’s having a good year, I think, and yet he’s accepted his role extremely well. That, in itself, is showing good leadership.”