Cougar hoops line up still in flux; Zags next

JUNIOR LONGRUS

MATCH-UPS MIGHT AS well have been the buzzword during Washington State coach Ken Bone's Tuesday morning teleconference. That not only relates to the Cougars' game Thursday at 6 p.m. at No. 13 Gonzaga, but why certain players have been starting in place of others.

CF.C asked Bone which players he will start to match-up against the Bulldogs (3-0). Bone said he assumes Gonzaga will start its regular lineup, but outside of guard DaVonté Lacy, he said the coaching staff has not determined starters for the game. Lacy and Bulldogs' guard Gary Bell are friends and Bone thinks the two likely will guard each other "quite a bit." Lacy has averaged 24.5 points per game for WSU (2-0), while Bell scores at a 17.3 rate.

When it comes to the bigger picture with starting lineups, sophomore Junior Longrus has started over senior D.J. Shelton up to this point. Bone said that stemmed from Longrus rebounding at a superior clip during practices. He also said it made sense to start Longrus during Sunday's 84-64 win against Lamar because the Cardinals featured a smaller, quicker lineup.

"It's just situational at this point," Bone said. "D.J. is doing a good job. Richard is doing a good job. There was no reason to make a change."

He said Shelton continues to work hard and still can work his way into a starting job.

Seven-foot junior center Jordan Railey only has played 18 minutes in two games. Bone again emphasized that Railey needs to improve his rebounding and he "needs to keep working on his offensive skills."

ONE NEW PLAYER who has flourished early is true freshman guard Ike Iroegbu. He scored 13 points in 21 minutes off the bench against Lamar. Bone said Iroegbu benefited from playing elite competition at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

"He had about 30 games under his belt against great competition," said Bone, adding that he is not surprised Iroegbu has made an immediate impact. "He doesn't fear anyone."

Few other newcomers have made impact early as redshirt freshman Que Johnson, who scored eight points against the Cardinals, is returning from multiple injuries that limited his ability to practice leading up to the season.

"We're playing so many new guys," Bone said. "If they forget one thing, it can affect the continuity of what we're doing. We're trying to get organized."

Doing that against one of the NCAA's most consistently successful programs won't be easy. But even when the Cougars lose against the Bulldogs, they seem to play them tough. WSU lost 71-69 last year when Kevin Pangos drove for the game-winning layup and suffered a 89-81 setback in 2011 at Gonzaga.

For the Cougars to pull off the upset, Bone said they will need to shoot well from the perimeter and play well. He said motivating his team to play a rival is not an issue.

"Any time you play a top-level program like Gonzaga is a challenge," he said. "We look forward to it."

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