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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cal looms for WSU on Saturday


COUGARS

We're done for this evening. We attended the Cougars' practice and put together our advance for tomorrow's game with Cal. You can read the unedited version on the link.
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• Here's the story for your enjoyment ...

BERKELEY, Calif. – When Washington State men's basketball coach Tony Bennett doesn't like something, he'll tell you.

And in film session Friday, he told his team how he felt about their defense against Stanford in their 65-54 loss Thursday night.

To put it bluntly, he didn't like it.

"I pointed it out to them, certainly," Bennett said after the Cougars finished their practice at Haas Pavilion in preparation for tonight's game against the Bears, 17-6 overall and 6-4 in the Pac-10.

"We're they trying? Certainly, everybody tries, everybody plays pretty hard," Bennett said. "But you can't have effort without soundness or soundness without effort. Neither (were) good enough for us.

"I thought defensively our soundness wasn't great. And I thought our effort was not what it needed to be."

Before embarking on this road trip that kicks off the second half of the Pac-10 season, Bennett emphasized the importance of not make mistakes, especially mental ones.

Then his team made a month's worth in the second half against the Cardinal.

"We talked about trying to eliminate some of the mental breakdowns," Bennett said, "and becoming sounder and tougher. Stanford was certainly better in those in that game. They were better than us."

Part of WSU's second half problem against the Cardinal was senior point guard Taylor Rochestie had to sit for more than 5 minutes with foul trouble. He finished with seven points, more than five under his average.

He picked up his third foul at the 17:13 mark, but it was a late first half backcourt foul, some 80 feet from the basket, that might have hurt the most.

"It was a dumb foul, but it was not something where I just like lost control or anything like that," Rochestie said. "Sometimes they just happen. Sometimes you just reach in there and foul, especially when you shouldn't.

"That was a mental breakdown on my part."

And it cost him time on the floor.

"I got to stay out of foul trouble," said Rochestie, who leads the Cougars in assists and was the scoring leader before Thursday. "I've got to keep myself in the game. If I'm playing bad or coach wants to take me out, that's great. But I don't want to take myself out of the game."

Especially not tonight, when he'll have the challenge of controlling Jerome Randle, Cal's diminutive point guard. Randle took apart Washington on Thursday night, scoring 19 of his game-high 21 points (a total also reached by fellow guard Theo Robertson) in the second half of the Bears' 86-71 victory.

The Bears, who defeated WSU 57-50 last month, are still leading the nation in 3-point shooting (44.9 percent), paced by Robertson (55.1 percent) and Randle (44.9). The other guard in Cal's three-guard attack, Patrick Christopher, who put up 22 against the Cougars (12-10, 4-6) in Pullman, has struggled lately, with 13 total points in his last three games.

And, though the Bears are only 2-4 in their last six games, Bennett expects another tough, physical road game.

"This team just dominated Washington," Bennett said. "I told them you have to be able to respond when teams either up the pressure on you with their athleticism or up the (physicality).

"That's when the toughness or soundness really come into play."

NOTES: Bennett doesn't feel his Cougars are at a loss what to do. They understand they have to do the little things right defensively to compete. "It's a message that's sent to them loud and clear on more than one occasion," he said. "This is just another occasion." ... Though there were mistakes made by the freshmen defensively, it’s the ones made by the upperclassmen that makes Bennett upset. "We say control your controllables," Bennett said, "and I didn't think we controlled them as well as we needed to." ... When asked what upset him the most, Rochestie answered "good question," then thought for a while. "Our staple here has been winning the intangible battle and competing, playing harder than the other team," he said. "And I think we didn't do that." ... Klay Thompson's mother watched Thursday's game, in town because Thompson's birthday is Sunday. ... In the first meeting, Rochestie finished with 19 points and held Randle to eight. Cal also struggled beyond the arc, hitting just 5 of 14 attempts. But Jamal Boykin had a big game inside, with 12 points and a season-high 14 rebounds.

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• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning with our usual post. Till then …




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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