Washington State Preview

The Sun Devils (16-8, 6-6 Pac-10) are coming off an up and down weekend that consisted of a win against 7th ranked Stanford followed by a tough loss to Cal. Now, with their NCAA Tournament chances hanging by a thread, Arizona State will have to head on a tough road trip to the Evergreen State. They will begin their trip facing off against the 17th ranked Washington State Cougars (20-5, 8-5).

After taking two steps forward the Sun Devils took a step backwards this weekend. Their two wins, over Arizona and Stanford, appeared to all but put them in the field of 64, but then came a loss to Cal. With the combination of Jeff Pendergraph and James Harden shooting just 4-15 from the field, the Sun Devils were no match for the Bears. In what looked to be a one-sided game than the final score 76-73 would indicate, Ty Abbott appeared to have found the shooting stroke he had at season's start, pouring in a career high 30 points. Cal was led again by potential Pac-10 players of the year Ryan Anderson and the most improved player from last season Patrick Christopher.

After loosing three straight home games and falling out of the Top 10 in the rankings, the Cougars have bounced back to win three in a row. In their last game, they were able to pull of a rare win in Eugene, as they were victorious at The Pit for the first time since 1995. That victory was also Washington State's 20th on the season, giving them back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 67 years. They were paced by Taylor Rochestie, who contributed 21 points.

Head Coach Tony Bennett

Projected Starters

PG – Taylor Rochestie (10.3 PPG, 4.8 APG)
SG – Derrick Low (13.8 PPG, 40% 3-PT)
SF – Kyle Weaver (11.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
PF – Robbie Cowgill (7.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG)
C – Aron Baynes (11.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Nikola Koprivica
F – Daven Harmeling
F – Caleb Forrest

Overview

With Washington State winning the last three meetings between these two teams by an average of four points, one can naturally expect a closely contested game. The last meeting was no different, as Washington State pulled of a one-point win in a controversial ending. With time running out, James Harden drove the length of the court and drew a lot of contact as he attempted a lay up. The Cougars were led by Derrick Low, who caught fire, hitting 6-11 from downtown and finishing with 18 points.

The Cougars may be the most balanced team in the nation, with four out of five of their starters averaging double digits. With the emergence of Rihards Kuksiks, ASU may have found the scoring help they were looking for. The Sun Devils will need him and Ty Abbott to continue to play well if they want to make a strong push at their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2003.

Guards

The combination of Rochestie and Low has been lethal for opponents lately. Last week against the Oregon schools, they accounted for 62% of the Cougars' offense. They are both experienced and smart guards that have the ability to take this team deep into the tournament. Last time they played, they took advantage of their experience and gave Derek Glasser and Ty Abbott much trouble. If Abbott can continue his hot shooting he displayed against Cal, ASU will be in great shape. The visitors will need to make sure that they do not lose Low in the zone defense, as he is not afraid to shoot, already putting up a staggering 166 three-pointers this season.

Solid Edge – Washington State

Forwards Kyle Weaver will be the most complete player on the floor for either team. He has developed into a solid player on both the offensive and defensive end. He is deceptively quick and lengthy and will be a difficult guy for ASU to defend. Robby Cowgill will start at the other forward position. As the case for most of the season, he will be a challenge due to the Sun Devils' lack of size. Arizona State will counter with James Harden and Rihards Kuksiks. ASU will need Kuksiks to remain a threat from the outside in order to open up the low post and take pressure of Harden.

Slight Edge – ASU

Centers

Last time out against ASU, Aron Baynes was in early foul trouble and was not able to take advantage of the Sun Devils' small lineup. Nonetheless, look for him to come back and do the same to Jeff Pendergraph. The last two games, Pendergraph has picked up cheap fouls that could have been avoided. Eric Boateng has come in and been a nice relief and has started to play the way we all were hoping for when he arrived in Tempe.

Slight Edge – ASU

Final Score Washington St. 55 Arizona St. 51

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