Could UW win be a catalyst toward Big Dance?

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone already has acknowledged that it was his most significant win with the Cougars. But he said during his Tuesday teleconference that Sunday's 87-80 win against then-No. 18 Washington could mean much more than that.

As WSU (15-6 overall, 5-4 Pac-10) opens the second half of conference play at 6 p.m. Thursday at Oregon and 5 p.m. Saturday at Oregon State (TV: FSN-NW), Bone feels the win could be a catalyst toward a possible NCAA Tournament berth.

"A win over a ranked team gives you confidence, especially when it's your archrival," Bone said. "It should be a confidence builder. It would be hard going into the second half of the conference at 4-5 thinking you have a shot at the NCAA Tournament."

But he acknowledges WSU has a lot to accomplish. According to RealTimeRpi.com, the Cougars are No. 64 in RPI and many have them as a fringe NCAA Tournament team. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has WSU as one of his last four teams in the tournament this week. Bone said his team needs to remained focused to make that a reality.

That means fewer mental lapses than the last time the Cougars played against the Oregon schools, when they beat both teams by 14 points. But WSU combined to commit 37 turnovers in those games.

THE DUCKS (10-11, 3-6) are considered by many as one of the conference's bigger surprises. Oregon was picked to finish last in the Pac-10 preseason media poll after Dana Altman replaced long-time coach Ernie Kent. The Ducks also graduated guard Tajuan Porter and multiple players, most notably center Michael Dunigan, left the program.

Bone said he is not surprised by some of the success Oregon has experienced under Altman, whose team applies relentless pressure defense.

"He's a really good coach and Oregon has some talent," he said. "A lot of the kids played last year. They beat us three times, so we're very aware of what they're capable of."

Bone also noted that the Ducks were not completely healthy the first time they played his team. Forwards Joevan Catron and Jeremy Jacob played limited minutes, while guard Malcolm Armstead was out.

"They're going to continue to progress throughout the season," Bone said. "From when they played us a month ago, they're definitely a better team."

The Ducks actually have experienced more success in conference play on the road, where they have defeated the Beavers and Stanford.

The floor at the new Matthew Knight Arena, which represents the view of fir tree forest, has had mixed reviews.

"I don't know what to think of it," Bone said. "I guess I want to wait and see it first. There are certain people who love it. There are others who say it makes them dizzy."

Oregon is just 1-3 in the conference home games, but Bone said the floor could present an advantage for the Ducks.

"Maybe that's why it's the way it is," he said. "Boise State football has a little advantage playing at home with a unique (blue) field. Eastern Washington won a national championship playing on the red turf."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Bone expressed some concern last week about playing UW on Sunday because it meant a shorter turnaround than usual against Oregon and OSU (8-12, 3-6). But both center DeAngelo Casto and wing Klay Thompson played fewer minutes than usual against the Huskies because of foul trouble. Thompson logged 30 minutes in that game, while Casto played 21. But Bone said he is not sure if the reduced playing time benefited either player.

    "Those two kids are upperclassmen," he said. "They've been in this situation before where they fight through adversity. What I fear most this time of the year is someone getting injured."

    In the latter sense, Bone said both playing fewer minutes than usual might have been "a blessing in disguise."

  • WSU drew 10,579 fans against UW and Bone said having the Pac-10's largest student section gives the Cougars a significant home-court advantage. There are about 5,000 student seats available.

    "You can't beat our crowd," he said. "That's a really good home-court advantage and I think our kids fed off that energy."

  • With Casto and Thompson in foul trouble, Bone said he particularly was pleased with sophomore point guard Reggie Moore, who converted 9 of 10 free throws en route to 18 points. He also had five assists and just two turnovers.

    "Reggie is playing good ball," Bone said. "He attacked and sometimes he moved the ball. We needed someone to step up and be assertive and that was Reggie."

    NOTABLE: As part of CF.C's wall-to-wall football Signing Day coverage, WSU recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen will be in our Chat Room tomorrow (Wednesday, LOI Day) from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

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