Week in review:
WSU is 5-1 after splitting a pair of home games. The Cougars gave Sacramento State a solid beating, probably more so than should have been expected at 84-36. The loss came to No. 5 Kansas State in a spirited affair played in front of a packed and vocal Apple Cup-eve crowd; no shame in losing 63-58 to the Wildcats, who have worked everyone on their schedule to date except for No. 1 Duke.
Still, Washington State had a chance to bag the first signature win of Ken Bone's Cougar coaching career. When WSU took a 54-53 lead with 2:35 left, this is where you would expect a good team playing at home to finish off a big win. Instead. KSU outscored the Cougars 10-4 down the stretch.
Oh well. If there's a good time to learn some lessons, better in early December than the middle of the Pac-10 season. Washington State did a decent enough job in defending the Wildcats, but got hurt in two key areas: 3-point shooting (3 of 16) and rebounding (KSU 41-28). And it would help if the stars played like stars in big games, at least every now and then. Klay Thompson's 1 of 7 from 3-point range, 6-turnover performance doesn't cut it.
As for Sacramento State, well, the less of these teams the Cougars schedule, the better. Utah Valley beat the Hornets by 25 points, for Pete's sake.
This week in preview:
The Cougars have a pair of home games before going silent for finals week. It starts Wednesday with Gonzaga, then Friday against Texas Pan-American.
Let's face it: the week will be judged based on the result against Gonzaga. WSU could beat Texas-PA by 100 with George Raveling going through the layup line during pre-game warmups, and it still wouldn't make up for a loss to the Bulldogs.
Let's face it, No. 2: there is only one acceptable result this year, and that's a WSU win over Gonzaga. Remember what I said about Bone and a signature win? Well, here is the Cougars' chance, even if this might not be the saltiest bunch of Zags in recent years. GU is 4-3 this season after going down Saturday in Seattle to No. 21 Illinois, 73-61.
It's still Gonzaga, and a win over the Bulldogs would resonate. Washington State hasn't had a lot of luck with GU of late, winning two of the past 11 games against the Bulldogs and blowing a big lead last year in Spokane. Last time Gonzaga ventured to Pullman, WSU might as well have saved the Bulldogs the gas money, the Cougars played so poorly.
Washington State has to come to play Wednesday. Where the Cougars could really hurt Gonzaga is 3-point shooting, not a strength of the Bulldogs' defense. GU ranks 188th in the country in defending the 3. Come to think of it, Gonzaga isn't very good at defending any shot; the Bulldogs rank 225th in field goal defense. WSU is one of the country's best teams in field goal defense. That, plus the second game back from Reggie Moore and a raucous home crowd should give the Cougars a decided edge over Gonzaga.
Texas Pan-American, meanwhile, is a little better than Sacramento State, but not by much. The Broncos are 3-6, including wins over powerhouses Victory University and SUNY-Cobleskill. The Cougars should win no matter what mood they're in, but Texas-PA has had a couple notable performances this season, including a 77-71 loss to Northwestern. The Broncos' leading scorer is 6-foot sophomore guard Aaron Urbanus, who averages 15 points a game.
Reggie Moore's return to the court Friday against K-State after missing every game this season with a wrist injury couldn't have been scripted much better. He played 27 of 40 minutes, hit 4-of-5 field goals en route to 10 points, dished 3 assists, grabbed 2 steals and 2 rebounds, and committed 3 turnovers.
Did you know?
Realtime RPI is projecting that Washington State will finish the regular season with a 23-5 record, and 14-4 in the Pac-10.
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel
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