Cougar Hoops Notebook

MICHAEL HARTHUN

FARLEIGH DICKINSON U. is coming to Friel Court tonight, but my mind is still on Mississippi Valley State. Aside from the lopsided score, two things popped out from the box score of the Cougar basketball team's season opener Saturday. First was the shot-blocking of freshman DeAngelo Casto. Second was the fact two fellow rookies, Michael Harthun and James Watson, didn't play in the 51-point blowout.

Tony Bennett explained that Harthun and Watson stayed on the bench because "nothing's set in stone ... we're thinking about redshirting those guys ..."

Three years ago, Bennett took the same cautious approach with then-freshman Nikola Koprivica. Ultimately, Bennett decided to play Nik that season, but not until much of the non-conference schedule had been completed.

The Cougs typically operate with a 10- or 11-man rotation in non-conference games and then narrow the bulk of playing time to seven or eight in Pac-10 games.

The top six this season seem pretty well set with Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, Daven Harmeling, Koprivica, Klay Thompson and Caleb Forrest. Add in Casto at the post, sharpshooting Abe Lodwick at the two guard and Marcus Capers at backup point and you're already at nine.

That's a persuasive reason why redshirting Harthun and Watson could make a lot of sense.

As for Casto and blocked shots, the 6-8 Spokane product collected four of them in 18 minutes of PT against Mississippi Valley State. Granted, MVS isn't like banging around the paint with the likes of Arizona's Jordan Hill or Washington's Jon Brockman. But facts are facts: Casto has an Ivory Clark-like feel -- and legs -- for protecting the rim.

Shot-blocking isn't a focus of the Cougar defense. Getting back in transition and defending the perimeter are the cornerstones of Bennett Ball. Still, there's no getting around the luxury of having a swat-king for a backstop when things break down.

Last season, minus Clark, the Cougars had 53 fewer blocks than they did the year before. Not by coincidence, Clark had – you guessed it – exactly 53 blocks in 2006-07. Some of those swats would have come in handy in tough losses last season to Cal, Stanford and Arizona.

So as excited as I am to have Thompson in crimson, I think Casto warrants a similar level of excitement.

THE COUGARS ARE BACK in action at Friel Court tonight (Tuesday) at 7:00 against the Knights of Farleigh Dickinson, a school of 12,000 based in Teaneck, New Jersey. The Knights are members of the Northeast Conference, which includes such schools as Monmouth, Robert Morris and Central Connecticut.

Farleigh Dickisnon dropped its season opener last week to No. 5 Pitt, 86-63.

The game with the Cougs is part of the Legends Classic, a 12-team tournament featuring clubs from 12 different conferences. Four teams -- WSU, Pitt, Mississippi State and Texas Tech -- start the tournament with opening-round games on their home courts. The tourney's championship rounds will be played at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Nov. 28-29.

NOTABLE NOTES:
• WSU has won 17-straight nonconference games and has never lost a game (15-0) in the month of November under Tony Bennett. The Cougars are 31-0 all-time in the month of November at Friel Court.

• Four freshmen played for the Cougars against Mississippi Valley state (Capers, Casto, Thompson, Nick Witherill). The last time four true freshman played in a WSU season opener was in 2004 (Josh Akognon, Robbie Cowgill, Harmeling, Kyle Weaver).

• With nine total freshman, WSU is tied with three other schools for the most freshmen on a roster in the country. The Cougs are tied with Presbyterian, High Point and The Citadel.

• Baynes is looking to become the 30th player in Washington State history to score 1,000 points in his WSU career. He currentl has 658 career points. Rochestie is also closing in on the 1,000-point mark for his career. Between his freshman season at Tulane and the last two years at WSU, Rochestie has amassed 827 points (528 as a Cougar).

• This Friday, on Apple Cup eve, the Cougs will be back at Friel to take on Sacramento State.

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