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Cal Basketball

WSU Preview: Beating Cougars Is a Tall Order

January 6, 2021
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Cal’ basketball team will likely be without leading scorer Matt Bradley and forward Grant Anticevich when it hosts the Washington schools this weekend. That will really hurt, especially Thursday night. 

The Washington State team that comes to Haas Pavilion Thursday night could be called the biggest Pac-12 surprise this season. In the conference preseason poll, the Cougars were picked 11th, even lower than Cal.

But WSU won its first eight games before losing to powerful Arizona in double overtime on Sunday, dropping to 8-1 (1-1 Pac-12) as the Cougs come to Berkeley. 

Admittedly, there are 8-1 records and then there are 8-1 records. All the WSU wins have come at home and the opponents were the likes of Texas Southern, Eastern Washington, Prairie View and Montana State. You won’t find a basketball blue blood nor even anyone from a major conference in the non-conference victims. The Cougars’ most impressive victory was over the inconsistent Oregon State Beavers, who were picked to finish last.

The Bears (5-6, 0-4) do not match up well with the WSU, especially in the front line, where Washington State has a lot of height including the conference’s most intriguing newcomer. Efe Abogidi, a 6-10 freshman from Nigeria, at age 19 has become something of a sensation.. He is a bit raw and sometimes wanders too far from the hoop on defense. But he is a presence, he has 20 blocked shots in the nine games and has doubtless altered the trajectory of many others. His seasonal average is 10.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, but over the last four games the numbers are 15.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots.

Head coach Kyle Smith, in his second year in Pullman, has said that “He’s an angel of a human being — that’s probably his best attribute. He’s really is an unbelievable team guy.”

He also said that his rebounding and shot-blocking ability are “elite talents”.

And when he teams with 6-10 freshman Dishon Jackson and 7-1 Volodymyr Markovetskyy the Bears will be at a severe height disadvantage. Mariovetskyy was one of four Cougs to miss the Arizona game because of COVID-19 protocols. He is expected back Thursday. Jackson is seeing more playing time as the season has gone on. With Anticevich out, Lars Thiemann will have his hands full underneath. 

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Isaac Bonton (10)

The team leader and top scorer is guard Isaac Bonton, who averages 17.1 points. His seasonal shooting percentage is just 31.9 but he was 10-for-23 against Arizona, en route to a 25-point night. 

Overall the Cougs are one of the poorest shooting teams in the conference, with a 40.2 team field goal percentage, 31.3 percent from 3-point range and 66.1 from the free-throw line. In fact had the Cougars been better than 19-for-37 from the foul line they would probably have beaten Arizona. 

Hmmm. Missing crucial free throws. Does that sound familiar Cal fans?

One thing the Cougs do well defend. They are number one in the country in defensive field goal percentage (34.2), and 25th in scoring defense (60.8). They don’t press often, as Oregon State did against the Bears, but they do get up close both outside and just inside the arc. They can afford to gamble with Abogidi, Jackson and Mariovetskyy protecting the rim.

Cal Updates

The last report from the Bears was that Bradley that as of Monday he had not been cleared to practice. He missed two games, but in his second game back against Oregon State on Saturday,  he sustained another ankle injury. Anticevich, has missed four games after an appendectomy. 

WSU notes

  • The other three Cougars— Brandon Chatfield, DJ Rodman and Ryan Rapp — who missed Saturday’s game against Arizona because of COVID protocol, are still questionable for Thursday.
  • The Cougars have another tall freshman, 6-10 Brandton Chatfield.
  •  Cal leads the overall series, 82-51, and in Berkeley, 49-19.
  •  The other WSU starters will probably be 6-8 Andrej Jakimovski and 6-5 Noah Williams, with Mariovetskyy coming off the bench.
  • WSU has kept opponents off the offensive glass grabbing 32.3 defensive rebounds per game ranking fourth in the country.
  • Abogidi has a 73.6 defensive rating per 100 possessions which leads the Pac-12, and is tenth in the country.

Washington Notes

  • The game is scheduled to tip-off at noon Saturday. 

  • The Huskies are just 1-7 and have lost all three Pac-12 games. The lone victory is a 73-41 decision over Seattle, a team Cal also defeated, 78-65.

  • They face Stanford in Santa Clara on Thursday night.

  • Senior guard Quade Green is the leading scorer, averaging 15.5 ppg.

  • They have been outrebounded consistently. In a loss to Arizona last week the Wildcats had a 58-30 edge. “We've got to rebound the ball better. The bottom line is, we're 72nd in KenPom in defensive efficiency. We're 333 in defensive rebounding. So we're giving up 14.5 offensive rebounds a game,” head coach Mike Hopkins said. “If we can hold that to eight, nine offensive rebounds a game, statistically we'd be in the top-40 defensive teams in the country.”


  • Redshirt sophomore Nate Roberts is currently tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in rebounding, pulling down 7.5 per game.
  • The Huskies have had at least five steals and five blocks in all but two games ... UW is fourth in the league in blocks averaging 4.8 per game.
Discussion from...

WSU Preview: Beating Cougars Is a Tall Order

803 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 16 days ago by oskidunker
calumnus
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Sounds like Kyle Smith has also pursued international recruiting with better results than Fox so far.

The strength of their team is their front line:
Aboqidi 6-10 from Nigeria
Kunc 6-8 from Slovenia
Jakimovski 6-8 from Macedonia
Markovetskyy 7-1 from Ukraine

However, If not for the Cal injuries these would be our best opportunities for conference wins.

oskidunker
How long do you want to ignore this user?
This cant be any worse than 1000 maniacs attacking the Capital.
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