“I was a little too overexcited," Railey told Cougfan.com before practice Wednesday. "I had a lot of adrenaline rushing but it was good to finally get back out there and play. I was really excited to just get out there and work with the guys so that was fun."
It was an inauspicious beginning for the 7-foot, 245-pound center from Beaverton. While he blocked a shot and hit one of two free throws, the numbers that screamed out from his stat line were these: Four fouls in seven total minutes of playing time.
“I think some of it was the jitters,” Railey said. “I got out there and was a little overzealous, probably a little too aggressive on the defensive end. But I think the flow will come as time goes on I’ll get into the rhythm of the game and I don’t think those fouls will be happening as quickly.”
Of the new defensive rules that are all the talk of college basketball right now, Railey said he’s confident he and the team will be able to work through it all no matter how tightly the games are officiated. Doing a better job moving the feet will make a big difference, he said.
With first-game nerves out of the way, Railey said he expects to turn in far more productive minutes Saturday night when the Cougs host Lamar in a 9:30 tip that will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Lamar is by coached by Pat Knight, who is entering his third season at the Beaumont, Texas, school after 10 years at Texas Tech. The Cardinals are 0-2 after tough non-conference games against Butler and George Mason to open this campaign. Last season, Lamar went 3-28, 1-17 in conference.
RAILEY WASN’T THE ONLY COUGAR WHO seemed a bit off kilter in the win over Bakersfield. Point guard Royce Woolridge finished with eight points, six coming from the foul line, and two assists, but he also committed four turnovers and collected four fouls.
Woolridge didn’t start the game due to head coach Ken Bone’s edict that rebounding efficiency in practices and the exhibition game against Central Washington would dictate his starting lineup. Woolridge still played 25 minutes, but he never looked entirely comfortable.
“I got in early foul trouble ... that was definitely something in the back of my head,” he said Wednesday when asked if not starting had an impact on his performance. “I just didn’t play well, didn’t have a good game but next game will be a lot better.”
He said he especially needs to do a better job of finding teammates for open shots and spreading the ball around. Against Bakersfield, the Cougar offense was mostly a one-man show. DaVonte Lacy took 17 shots, and scored a game-high 28 points, but no one else on the team took more than five shots.
Offense aside, there was no question defense, and more specifically the new hand-checking rules, was top of mind for Woolridge’s in the Bakersfield contest. “This year is something different than how I’ve ever played basketball,” he said after the game. “They changed the rules a lot. You can’t even touch a player, if you touch him it’s a foul, literally. It’s something you have to get used to and we learned the hard way, I feel like everybody was in foul trouble pretty much.”
THE COUGARS’ NEW HIGH-PRESSURE DEFENSE is still a work in progress, but senior forward D.J. Shelton said Wednesday that it’s starting to come together for the Cougs.
“I think we did some great things (against Bakersfield), our zone, our matchup zone was great,” Shelton said. “We got in the passing lane and got some good buckets on the fast break so I think it was good, it showed some things we didn’t do in the past years and now we just play with our defense.”
He said the new defense is starting to become “routine” for the players and that the number of mistakes in practice are diminishing. “ I think we all bought into it and do a good job at it.”
Railey said his transition to the high-pressure D has been largely uneventful because it’s similar to what they ran in his two years at Iowa State, as well as on his old AAU team.