The glass remains at least half full for Washington coach Lorenzo Romar.
The third loss of the season came on Saturday, once again spotlighting the same Washington warts. Not enough rebounding nor enough passing in the three losses.
In each, Washington has been outrebounded and had more turnovers than assists. Saturday was almost a full 2-to-1 swap of bad-versus good, a season-high 20 Washington turnovers against just 11 assists. The season-low for assists, nine, came against Kentucky, a game Romar admitted afterward was played on a predominantly individual level.
So, the problems for 6-3 Washington persist and are clear. Romar continues to believe they can be fixed.
“In all three instances, they were teams that did a really good job guarding us, defending us and slowing the basketball down,” Romar said. “It just showed us, I think we have the message now, that when that happens, we still play aggressive, we still play the same way.
“We have to make a couple more extra passes not just try to shoot the ball the first time, first side. We’ve got to do a better job coming off screens, we’ve got to do a better job setting screens. Overall execution, we just have to do a better job.”
Romar said earlier in the season he was happy with the ball movement. Senior co-captain Justin Holiday spoke about how the team doesn’t care who scores. Those traits are lacking against the tougher opponents.
The other issue remains rebounding. Prior to the season, Romar assured Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye could and would play together. It’s rarely been seen, which is odd considering the issues corralling the ball. It would seem beneficial to have the team’s top three rebounders, Holiday (6.2), N’Diaye (6.1) and Bryan-Amaning (5.8) on the floor together. The cost would be Darnell Gant’s defense against swifter power forwards and the spacing his jump shot provides.
Bryan-Amaning guarded NBA small forward Luol Deng over the summer when he worked with the British national team and said he was prepared to chase perimeter forwards this season. We have yet to see much of that.
Thompson plus one
The arrival of shooting guard Faisal Aden at Washington State is providing scorer Klay Thompson with relief.
Aden’s ability to shoot, and just his threat to do so, has created space for Thompson who has been asked to continue to drive more. The Cougars station Aden 15 feet or so away from Thompson, allowing the San Diego native to be available if his man leaves to help against Thompson. The flip is Aden’s man sticks with him, allowing Thompson isolation opportunities. That’s not good for the opponent and is a big reason Thompson’s assists are up this season and the Cougars are 7-1.
If Thompson wasn’t so good, Aden possibly would not be at Washington State.
“We saw him during the summer a year and a half a go, and at that time, as a staff, we had not coached (WSU),” Cougars coach Ken Bone said. “We kept hearing about how great Klay Thompson was and he might be going to the NBA after his sophomore year, so we felt like we needed to find someone who can shoot it and be a threat from the perimeter in case Klay is gone.”
Thompson stayed after a hot start dissipated last season. In turn, the Cougars are beginning to receive top 25 votes. Aden is a borderline gunner who averages 18.3 points per game. His shot selection was almost enough to shift Bone’s perfectly parted hair, but the coach has learned to live with it since Aden is shooting 49.6 percent overall from the field.
“Early in the year I was on him pretty hard about some of his shots, even though they were going in,” Bone said. “But they continued to go in, so I backed off.”
Smith lending a hand
Kentwood’s Josh Smith has UCLA coach Ben Howland pleased.
The big man produced a double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds) against one of America’s best frontlines when UCLA lost by a point to third-ranked Kansas, and had another double-double against meek Cal Poly. Smith is averaging 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. He shed weight heading into the season, but Howland says conditioning is still an issue.
With that will come better mobility. Smith struggled defensively on Monday night against UC Davis because he had to chase his man out to the 3-point line.
What does not have to change are Smith’s hands.
“His hands are among the best hands I’ve ever seen,” Howland said. “It’s just incredible how he catches everything.
“He has to learn how to play lower and not so erect at both ends of the floor. He’s really going to be a good player when you consider he’s just a freshman right now and the skill level that he has.”
USC about to receive a boost
Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill has a direct assessment of Fordham transfer Jio Fontan. “He’s our best player.”
The junior guard averaged 15.3 points per game in 33 games for Fordham. When O’Neill says best player, he’s talking the full boat.
“He’s our best leader, our best scorer, our best defender, our best passer,” O’Neill said. The coach also contends 6-4 USC could be 8-2 or 9-1 if it had Fontan running things the whole season.
Fontan, who just became eligible because of the transfer last December, will make his Trojans debut just in time. The Trojans play at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday, then at No. 7 Tennessee Dec. 21.
Bright developing for Stanford
Bellevue’s Aaron Bright is playing a modest 15.3 minutes and 4.6 points a game for Stanford. Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins says the freshman has made progress.
“Aaron is still learning our system and I’m still learning a lot about our players at the point guard spot,” Dawkins said. “It’s so important because your role is to help make guys better out there and run our team, so it’s a transition for him. I’m pleased with his development. I think he’s getting better and I told him that recently.”