PULLMAN - Las Vegas oddsmakers like Washington State to defeat Oklahoma State tonight in the NIT.
Ken Bone only wishes he felt as confident about the odds of Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto returning to WSU next season.
Bone, the Washington State coach, said he believes odds are “about 50-50” that Thompson and Casto will bypass their senior seasons to turn pro after this season. Both players have talked since the preseason about possibly leaving early.
The prospect of WSU losing its leading scorer (Thompson) and leading rebounder (Casto) adds to the sense of urgency for the Cougars tonight. WSU is favored by 51/2 points at Friel Court.
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“If you lose,” Bone noted, “you’re finished.”
The Cougars (20-12), seeded second in the Boston College Region, are 4-0 all-time in NIT home games. Oklahoma State (20-13) is 0-9 on away campuses this season, but 6-2 in other games away from home.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford acknowledges his team’s road problems. Ford also bemoans the Cowboys’ lack of fiery personalities and defensive stoppers.
That could be fatal against a WSU team that is 11-4 at home. Plus, there’s that Thompson fellow.
“I see a guy who is one of the best players in America, definitely,” Ford said. “Very impressive.”
Thompson ranked eighth in the nation through Saturday with 22.2 points per game. He was 13th in 3-pointers made per game (3.1) and 20th in 3-point shooting percentage (42.0).
“I don’t think you can stop him,” Ford said.
The Cowboys rank near the bottom nationally in 3-pointers made, assists and fouls. A team that hits just 30 percent of its 3-point attempts relies heavily on the inside play of 6-foot-7, 255-pound Marshall Moses. The senior forward leads Oklahoma State with 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Tonight’s winner plays at home Wednesday in the quarterfinals against Northwestern (20-13). The March 29 semifinals and March 31 title game will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“We think we have the talent and ability to get to Madison Square Garden,” WSU guard Marcus Capers said.
Tonight’s game time, originally announced for 8:45, is now listed at 8:30 on ESPN2. Classes resumed today after spring break, so that should boost attendance at Friel Court. WSU is seeded second, Oklahoma State third and Northwestern fourth in the Boston College Region. Northwestern won at top-seeded BC on Saturday. Oklahoma State has yielded just 58.6 ppg over the past five games. WSU has scored 80 or more points in four of the past five games. The Cowboys are 4-6 over the past 10 games, including a one-point loss to second-ranked Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. The Cougars and Cowboys have both played just one game since losing March 10 in their conference tournament quarterfinals.
OKLAHOMA STATE (20-13) AT WASHINGTON STATE (20-12)
When: Tonight at 8:30.
Where: Friel Court, Pullman.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 850 AM/1300 AM.
Series: Oklahoma State leads, 1-0. The Cowboys crushed WSU, 81-29, in 2004 in Stillwater, Okla.
Statistical leaders: For Oklahoma State: Marshall Moses, 14.5 ppg; Moses, 7.4 rpg; Ray Penn, 2.1 apg. For Washington State: Klay Thompson, 22.2 ppg; DeAngelo Casto, 6.9 rpg; Thompson, 3.9 apg.
Scouting report: The Cowboys may not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Cougars. Over the past five games, Thompson (who was suspended for one) is averaging 29 points, Casto 16 and Faisal Aden 15.2. The Cowboys lack high-quality outside shooters, but they have inside muscle. A key for WSU’s defense may be the play of 6-foot-7, 208-pound forward Abe Lodwick and 6-10, 230-pound forward Brock Motum. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said “it’s going to take more than one guy” to guard Thompson. “We don’t really have a defensive stopper,” Ford said.
Next: The winner plays Wednesday at home against Northwestern (20-13) in the NIT quarterfinals.
Howie Stalwick, contributing writer