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WSU confronted with big Huskies front line

Washington State forward Abe Lodwick (31) blocks the shot of Arizona State forward Rihards Kuksiks in game this season. (Dean Hare / Fr158448 Ap)
Washington State forward Abe Lodwick (31) blocks the shot of Arizona State forward Rihards Kuksiks in game this season. (Dean Hare / Fr158448 Ap)

PULLMAN – The word rebound has a couple of different meanings and about a half-million synonyms.

And all of the latter may apply tonight to Washington State when Pac-10 leading Washington (15-4 overall, 7-1 in conference play) invades Beasley Coliseum for their once-yearly basketball trip across the mountains.

But only the basketball connotation – grabbing a missed shot – should be crucial.

The Cougars (14-6, 4-4) have had more than a week to bounce back from a tough-to-swallow 65-63 loss at home to second-place Arizona, a game in which they couldn’t keep the Wildcats’ Derrick Williams off the offensive glass – he had nine of UA’s 15 offensive rebounds – but still had a chance to win until the final buzzer.

“Their offensive rebounding really, really hurt us,” WSU coach Ken Bone said after the defeat. “They were bigger and stronger.”

But if Arizona and the 6-foot-8, 241-pound Williams presented a problem for the Cougars, what do 18th-ranked Washington and its twin towers of 6-9, 240-pound Matthew Bryan-Amaning (56 offensive rebounds this season) and 7-foot, 260-pound Aziz N’Diaye (47), along with an athletic group of wings led by 6-6 Justin Holiday (37), represent tonight?

“We need to be physical and understand that every time the ball goes up,” Bone said, “it’s a battle to rebound.”

The Huskies lead the conference in rebounds (766), rebound margin (plus-6.6) and offensive rebounds per game (14.4).

“They’re big, athletic guys,” said Abe Lodwick, who, at 6-7 and 208 pounds, teams with 6-8, 255-pound DeAngelo Casto inside. “And they’re aggressive, they’re not soft. They’re part of a system that really cultivates some toughness.”

But it isn’t just the two “bigs,” Casto and Lodwick, who must rebound for the Cougars. It’s a team effort, with wings Klay Thompson (5.5 rebounds per game) and Marcus Capers (5.3) just behind Casto (6.2) on the glass. And then there are folks like Lodwick, who averages 4.4 rebounds but is, in Bone’s words, the best on the team in blocking out, or keeping his man off the offensive boards.

If you look at the Cougars’ size and rebounding statistics (WSU is in the bottom three of the Pac-10 in margin and the defensive rebounding statistics), one could conclude they’re easy to overpower.

But the statistics are built, in part, because WSU is the best defensive team in the conference, if shooting percentage defense is used as the gauge. Teams have converted just 37.8 percent of their shots against the Cougars, leading to a lot of misses.

Seven hundred and fifty in fact. That’s 40 more chances – or two a game – for an offensive rebound than any other Pac-10 team has faced. Which partly explains the 250 offensive rebounds WSU has yielded, 34 more than anyone else.

Every missed shot, of course, is an opportunity for someone.

For the Cougars, it’s a chance to put the ball in the hands of the conference’s third-best scoring team, to give Reggie Moore a chance for an assist or for Thompson to nail another of his 62 Pac-10-leading 3-pointers.

For the opposition it’s more than that.

“When teams get second shots, you’re rarely in a position to defend it,” Bone said. “Quite often the guys that get those rebounds are within 4, 5, 6 feet of the basket. In our initial defense, we try to do a good job of keeping the ball out of that area.”

But an offensive rebound tilts the court.

“It’s a little bit deflating also, when you work hard for 20, 25, 30 seconds, maybe longer than that, and the opposing team puts up a shot,” Bone said. “They miss it, so you feel good about what you’ve done thus far, and then all of sudden they come up with an offensive rebound, now they do have the ball within a few feet of the basket and you’re really not in a great position to defend it.

“It really puts you on your heels and you also become very foul prone in those situations. There’s just not a whole lot of good that comes out of it.”

That’s what Williams did to WSU last Saturday and what the Huskies intend to do tonight.

“They do a really good job of coming at you,” Lodwick said. “And they keep coming at you. I respect that about them. It doesn’t win you any friends in the Pac-10, but they’re not trying to win friends. They’re trying to win championships and so are we.

“It’s going to be a physical game either way.”

And each time they knock you down, Lodwick said, you have to bounce back. Or rebound, if you prefer.