The Sports Network
By John Agovino, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stan Sheriff Center (10,252) -- Honolulu, Hawaii. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: WSU 5-1, Baylor 7-0. Away Record: WSU 2-0, Baylor 0-0. Neutral Record: WSU 2-0, Baylor 1-1. Conference Record: WSU 0-0, Baylor 0-0. Series Record: Washington State leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Two teams playing at a high level will see just how good they really are when the 15th-ranked Baylor Bears battle the Washington State Cougars in the semifinals of the 2010 Diamond Head Classic from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The Cougars might not be ranked at the moment, but they are playing like one of the top teams in the nation, as they have won nine of their first 10 games. Their lone loss came against a tough Kansas State squad, but since then WSU has reeled off four straight wins, including an impressive 83-57 decision over Mississippi State on Wednesday.
As for the Bears, they only have one blemish on their record as well, and that was a 68-64 setback to Gonzaga just a few days ago. However, Baylor bounced back with a 33-point victory over San Diego on Wednesday. Now, if the Bears want to make it two in a row they will have to defeat their toughest opponent to date.
The Cougars currently hold a slim 2-1 series edge over Baylor, but the Bears won the most recent matchup by taking a 58-52 decision in Pullman during the 2008 Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
There are many things the Cougars have done right this season, and it is hard to attribute their success to one single area. Washington State comes into this game holding opponents to just 58.7 ppg, which is outstanding, but at the other end of the floor the Cougars are scratching out 78.9 ppg, which is also an impressive figure. WSU was at it again at both ends of the floor, as the Cougars embarrassed Mississippi State by a 26-point margin on Wednesday. Defensively, WSU held the Bulldogs to well under 40 percent shooting, and also forced them into 21 turnovers. With the ball, the Cougars were once again led by Klay Thompson, who poured in 28 points. Faisal Aden contributed 20 points, and joins Thompson as the only two players averaging double figures on the year. Thompson is a talented player who is producing 21.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 4.7 apg, while Aden helps out with his 17.2 ppg.
The Bears are similar to the Cougars in that they excel at both ends of the floor, and that kind of balanced effort is what has landed the team in the national rankings this year. Baylor is holding opponents to just 53.4 ppg, while dialing up the offense at the other end in netting 76.0 ppg behind a 49.3 percent shooting effort. Baylor continued its tremendous play against San Diego on Wednesday, as the Bears held the Toreros to just 50 points on 32.7 percent shooting. Offensively, five players finished in double digits for coach Scott Drew's club, with Anthony Jones leading the way with 16 points. Quincy Acy, who is producing 14.2 ppg on the year and 8.0 rpg, added 14 points, while LaceDarius Dunn tallied 13 points. Dunn has been the best backcourt option for Baylor, as the guard averages 20.3 ppg. Perry Jones III and Nolan Dennis helped out with 11 and 10 points, respectively, and now Jones III is averaging 13.6 ppg and a team-best 8.6 rpg.
This has all the makings of a great matchup, so college basketball fans should thank Santa for this gift. The Bears and Cougars have excellent leaders in Dunn and Thompson, but the difference on the floor will be the production from Baylor's frontcourt tandem of Acy and Jones III. WSU will likely struggle against the duo, and that will ultimately lead to its second loss on the year.