The Card and the Cougars last met just under a month ago, when Washington State came back from a 9-point halftime deficit to beat Stanford, 61-58, in Maples Pavilion. Stanford had pulled off the upset of Washington just two days before, and had yet to lose on the Farm during the 2010-11 season. Beginning with the loss to WSU, Stanford’s season has been a steady downhill. The Card went on to lose 4 consecutive games and lose 5 of their next 7 games overall, which brings us all the way up to Thursday’s contest in Pullman.
Washington State sits at fourth in the PAC-10 with a 6-5 conference record and is one game ahead of Stanford. With a strong second half of the conference season, Washington State could sneak into the NCAA tournament as at at-large team, and they’ll need to beat teams like Stanford to prove to the selection committee that they deserve to play in the Dance. Stanford, on the other hand, has no shot at making the tournament, but would like to finish the season well, continue developing the freshmen, and potentially have a shot at the NIT.
Keys to the Game
- Klay Thompson: Washington State’s junior guard got into foul trouble early in the teams’ January 15 meeting, but Stanford did not attack him on offense and force Cougar coach Ken Bone to sit Thompson down. Thompson went on to have a strong second half, and finished the night with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Thompson is the leader of the Cougars and leads the PAC-10 with 21.2 points per game. Yet Thompson isn’t particularly quick, or strong, or big (6′ 6″, 202 lbs). If Stanford wants to win, it will need to devote a significant bulk of its defensive energy to containing Thompson and occasionally committing some help double-teams when he looks for his shot.
- Faisel Aden: The other junior in WSU’s backcourt isn’t the dynamic scorer that Thompson is, but he lit up Stanford in January. Aden’s 20 points against Stanford marked his best scoring performance against a PAC-10 opponent in his career, and his 3 steals helped fuel the Cougars’ excellent guard play. Even though Stanford will need to focus on Thompson, Aden should be defensive priority #2.
- Can Stanford score? Last weekend, the Card made significant offensive strides by scoring 69 and 83 points against Arizona and Arizona State, respectively. But they’ll need to keep that scoring going. Another 58-point game against WSU will almost certainly mean a loss.
- Jeremy Green: Green has been good the last two games (combined 44 points against the Arizona schools) but he still does not practice prudent shot selection and he needs to get the ball a lot to score. Stanford is 3-6 when Green shoots more than 13 field goal attempts. When he shoots 13 or fewer, Stanford is 9-4. If Green can put up 18 points or more with a good field goal percentage, Stanford will be in good shape. If he can’t–and it’s not unlikely that he won’t given his performance for the majority of this conference season–another wingman, like Anthony Brown or Dwight Powell, will need to score in the high teens. (We know that Josh Owens is good for 10-15 points.)
- Home Court Advantage: The Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum isn’t exactly Allen Fieldhouse, but the Cougars have lost just twice at home this year. Stanford, on the other hand, can’t buy a road win. The Card are 1-5 on the road in partisan locations, and their lone win came against the lowly Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe. Expect the location of the game to play a part in the final score, especially if it’s close down the stretch.