PULLMAN – Forty minutes into the season, Washington State sophomore guard Marcus Capers can already sense the difference from a year ago.
Klay Thompson doesn’t feel as much pressure to score. DeAngelo Casto has help in the paint. And Faisal Aden, a junior college transfer, seems poised to make a big splash.
“Last year it was pretty much on Klay,” said Capers after the Cougars’ 86-47 rout of Southern on Saturday night. “… I feel like this year, on any given night, we might have a different dude scoring or we might have a different set of five guys in double figures.”
Aden, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, showcased a quick release and nice ball skills in his WSU debut. He had a game-high 18 points – despite a 1-of-8 showing from behind the 3-point line – to pace the Cougars’ well-rounded offensive performance in front of 6,173 at Beasley Coliseum.
DeAngelo Casto chipped in 16 points off the bench in the season opener, including nine in a row in the second half, and Brock Motum matched a career high with 14 points.
Thompson, last year’s leading scorer, was an efficient 6 of 10 from the field for 15 points. The junior was more than happy to defer on a night when he spent more time at point guard with Reggie Moore out indefinitely with a wrist injury.
“Just looking at the stats, we had a really balanced scoring effort,” Thompson said. “That just takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, a lot of weight off Reggie’s shoulders to have teammates that can score. We’re a lot more balanced now.”
Moore aggravated a previous wrist injury that occurred outside of practice, coach Ken Bone said. He’ll have X-rays today and is day-to-day heading into Tuesday’s clash versus Idaho.
Without the services of his starting point guard, Bone started Aden and slipped Capers to Moore’s usual spot. He also benched Casto, who was late for a class on Thursday, for the first few minutes and gave Motum his first career start.
WSU’s new starting lineup, which didn’t have time to mesh in practice, turned the ball over five times in the first 51/2 minutes as the Cougs fell behind 11-8.
But Southern – which gave up 117 points to Gonzaga on Friday night – went 15 minutes of the first half without a field goal. WSU took advantage of the Jaguars’ severe drought with a 30-3 spurt, punctuated by a Thompson drive and bucket.
“I was really impressed with Klay Thompson,” Bone said. “Here’s a guy that last December was leading the nation in scoring, or second. And he could have shot a lot more than 10 times tonight. That’s impressive for a guy that’s capable of putting up big numbers.”
“And that’s what we talked about as a team,” the second-year coach added. “If we’re going to be successful, we need to be very unselfish and play as a team.”
Southern, a Southwestern Athletic Conference school from Baton Rouge, La., connected on just 4 of 27 3-pointers (14.8 percent) and was outrebounded 49-21.
Capers corralled a career-high 15 rebounds from his guard spot – Thompson and Aden also had six boards apiece from the perimeter – to go along with eight points and two steals.
Bone was particularly pleased with the scrappy play of 6-8 freshman Patrick Simon of Ephrata. He buried two 3-pointers in a nine-point, eight-rebound effort in 13 minutes.
“Here’s a freshman in his first college basketball game from Ephrata,” Bone said, “and I was Ephrata (afraid) of him not wanting to be competitive in there and just the level of competition would be a bit of a shock. But he does a great job and he sticks his nose in there.”