Friday, November 9, 2012

EWU Basketball Game Preview: Washington State Cougars 12-10-2012

Kevin Winford and the Eagles are ready to soar
photo from
Tip off is at 4:30pm pst, you can find the game on the Pac-12 networks or by listening to the 700 ESPN radio broadcast (which will start once the EWU Football game is over).

The Eagles have played the Cougars 65 times going 11-54 in those games, their last win came in the 1996-1997 season.  The most recent matchup was a 26 point defeat last season as the Cougars forced the Eagles into their worst game of the season.  Last season they played Gonzaga then ranked #23 in the nation and lost by 8.  They played Saint Mary’s who took Gonzaga down for the WCC Championship and lost by 16.  In Big Sky Conference play the Eagles lost only one game by double digits, a 74 - 60 loss to eventual champion Montana on January 26th.  By the end of the season the Eagles scared every team they faced and even swept what had been a surging Idaho State team in three games in just eight days.  

It’s difficult to claim that one 26 point defeat turned a season around, or that it could provide inspiration enough for a team with a brand new Head Coach and multiple new starters to make a run into the Big Sky Conference tournament.  Then again, the last time a team lead by Coach Jim Hayford lost by 26 was January 14, 2005 when his Whitworth Pirates lost to the University of Puget Sound Loggers.  I think its safe to assume that Coach Hayford envisions a much more competitive outcome Saturday.

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The Cougars will bring a talented team to court, lead by Senior Forward Brock Motum (#12) who lead the Pac-12 in scoring last season with 18 points per game.  He also managed 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.6 steals against 3 turnovers and 2.2 personal fouls a night. The Cougars are a young team featuring just two Seniors, the other being Mike Ladd (#2) a Guard who played 19.8 minutes a game last year, averaging 5.4 points, 3 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.4 steals per contest.  The Cougars also recently lost the services of Senior Point Guard Reggie Moore who averaged over 10 points and 5 assists a night last season.

A former Kansas University Jawhawk, Royce Woolridge (#22) is expected to step into the Point Guard position this season.  He was billed as a combo - guard while at Kansas, but couldn’t crack the rotation much as a true Freshman on a squad which went to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.  Royce can dribble penetrate and is a good shooter as well as an aggressive defender.

The Cougars are not going to try and make their points from long range, they will try to penetrate and take high percentage shots.  Last year they took two thirds of their shots from 2 point range, and 4 of the top 5 three point shooters are no longer with the team.  By comparison, the Eagles took over 40% of their shots from beyond the arc last season.  Expect the Cougars to feed the ball to their forwards and try to control the paint.  Defensively the Cougars play very sound basketball and will try to force the Eagles into mistakes and bad shots.

Collin Chiverton and the Eagles will need to stay focused
and shoot well to beat the Cougars on Saturday
photo from
The Eagles will need to play sound defensively, not allowing the Cougars open passing or dribbling lanes to the basket.  On Offense the Eagles need to limit turnovers and work patiently to set up good shots.  Taking wild / contested shots plays into what the Cougars will want them to do.  Coach Hayford has a lot of options for attacking the Cougars, but the key is going to be playing their own brand of basketball, limiting turnovers and making their shots count.  I think the key match-up will be the Eagles young Forwards Martin Seiferth (#12) and Venky Jois (#55) matching up with Brock Motum (#12).

In order to win this game the Eagles will need to be very close to Coach Hayford’s goal of shooting 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc and 80% from the free throw line.  Although its hard to say definitively with so many new faces, the Cougars are not going to want to play in a long range shoot out.  If the Eagles can make their shots count and score in bunches they should be able to get the Cougars playing out of their comfort zone.  If they can get Brock Motum into foul trouble early they could negate one of the Cougars strongest assets and potentially interrupt their game plan.
I won’t go so far as to predict an Eagle victory, but I can confidently say this game is not going to be a 26 point blow-out in favor of the Cougars.  I expect a hard fought game and to see an Eagle’s squad that is as determined to face challenges head on as its Head Coach.