Ken Bone

Washington State changing defensive approach

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It’s been a busy month for the Washington State Cougars. On September 4th they lost assistant coach Ben Johnson and on September 7th, they unveiled some cool new uniforms.

Since then, Ben Johnson has been replaced by former Virginia assistant and Boise State head coach — and defensive specialist — Rod Jensen after Johnson moved to Australia and the change to Jensen is leading to a different approach in defensive philosophy from head coach Ken Bone.

The Cougars will up the defensive pressure this season by defending the length of the floor, according to an interview with Bone from Barry Bolton of’s Washington State site,

“We want to get points out of it … This year (on defense) is going to be very, very different,” Bone told

Bone went on to say that this is a defense that the program hasn’t seen in some time.

“We’re going to get after people,” Bone said. “We are going to get after people at the guards spots, and we are going to get out and pressure and deny.

“And we’re going to do it more than Cougar fans have seen in a long time.”

That also means an uptempo game and more tired legs, and Washington State’s rotation is likely going to expand to 9-to-11 guys.

Bone gave more insight to Bolton revealing details about the rotation.
“You figure 8, 9, 10 guys in rotation but in time that might change — we haven’t introduced a lot of stuff to them yet (in the limited practicing allowed this time of year),” said Bone. “You’ve got guys that have played a lot for us in D.J. Shelton, Will DiIorio, Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew, (Junior Longrus) and DaVonté Lacy.

“And then you add in Que Demarquise Johnson and Jordan Railey, who were with us last year but didn’t play. And then you have Danny Lawhorn and the two freshmen, Ike Ikenna Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson. That’s already 10-11 guys. And you might have one or two who might not be ready to fulfill that 10-15 minute role. And you’ve got Brett Boese, who is coming on and could slip into that kind of role. So there are some things that are yet to unfold.”
The new-look Washington State defense will be interesting and even though they lost arguably their two best players from last season in forward Brock Motum and guard Mike Ladd, they clearly needed to change something up from a disappointing 2012-13 record of 13-19 and 4-14 in the Pac-12.

If some of the new guys or former role players can step up, Washington State should improve from last season.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.