PULLMAN – Washington State will open its men’s basketball season Saturday night in Beasley Coliseum but their opponent will have a game under its belt.
But less than 24 hours rest. And with an 80-mile drive down U.S. 195 as well.
The Jaguars of Southern served as Gonzaga’s season-opening entrée Friday night. After the quick trip to Pullman, they’ll lace it up once more.
Seems like an advantage for the Cougars, who were 10-2 in non-conference games last season but 6-13 against Pac-10 opponents.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage or not,” said WSU coach Ken Bone, who will be starting his second season in Pullman. “Sometimes it’s nice to catch a team on the second night because they might be a little fatigued.
“Sometimes it takes a game to kind of catch up with themselves after travel, and on the second night they’re a little bit better. So it’s a flip of the coin.”
Last year the Cougars and Zags had another two-day double-header, with WSU hosting Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne one night and Gonzaga doing the same the next. Both won handily.
“It’s just the way it worked out,” Bone said of the scheduling this year. “It worked out better for Gonzaga to play on the Friday night and it really worked out better for us to play them on the Saturday night.”
So the Jaguars are making the trip from Baton Rouge, though they were something of a mystery to Bone earlier this week.
“I don’t know much about Southern,” he said Wednesday. “I am really involved with our own team right now and seeing what we can do better day-to-day.
“You have so many things to deal with and you’re trying to work on so many aspects of your game, you don’t really worry about the opponent as much,” Bone added. “Even if it is a tough, tough opponent. You still have a lot of things to work on your own team.”
Southern shouldn’t be considered in the tough, tough opponent category.
The Jaguars were 5-25 last year and finished 3-15 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Washington State is 13-0 against SWAC teams, including three consecutive wins over Mississippi Valley State in recent years.
Tonight’s game will be Cougar fans second chance to see Bone’s second team, after an easy 89-49 exhibition win over Lewis-Clark State last week. In that non-counter, Klay Thompson, a preseason all-Pac-10 choice by multiple publications, had 21 points and seven rebounds. But Bone liked his play on the other end even more.
“I’m impressed with the energy and concentration level he had on the defensive end,” Bone said. “I think he showed that the other night again … not just looking to score but he had a real presence on the defensive end.”
Junior college transfer Faisal Aden led the Cougars with 22 points, already filling what Bone envisions as his role this season.
“We see Faisal coming off the bench and being that guy who can come in and give us a lift, offensively especially,” Bone said, adding that Aden is a 3-point shooter, plus “he’s sneaky creative, whether it’s a little shot fake or what, but he seems to get in the gaps and pull up and hit the mid-range shot too.”
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