HOOPS: Will history repeat for Cougars?

WASHINGTON STATE'S men's basketball team is struggling in the second half of Pac-10 play -- similar to last season. But heading into the 7 p.m. Sunday night game at UW (TV: FSN), Ken Bone says this year's squad is better wired to avoid the swoon of last year. Meanwhile, will the Cougs get back Faisal Aden in time for the rivalry rematch with the UW? And please, he asks, no trash talk, er, tweets.

Bone said during Thursday that he felt questions comparing this year to last year, when WSU lost 10 of their final 12 games, were fair. But he also said this year's team is better than last season's that finished last in the Pac-10 with a 6-12 conference record, and that the Cougs will show that over their final three conference games.

"We'll handle it better," he said, noting his team defeated Oregon State and California following difficult losses this month.

The Cougars (17-10 overall, 7-8 conference) fell into a tie for sixth place in the conference after losing last week at Arizona and last-place Arizona State. Bone felt his team played well against the Wildcats (23-4, 12-2), who now are ranked 10th, in a 79-70 loss. He said it was a matter of not finishing some plays and converting free throws when the game was close.

The outcome against the Sun Devils — a 71-69 setback — was closer, but Bone was not happy with how his team performed. Even though ASU (10-16, 2-12) shot 51 percent from the field, Bone said defense is not the only issue with WSU. He said the Cougars also have not been as efficient offensively.

"I would like to see us be more consistent on both ends of the court," he said.

AS FAR AS the NCAA Tournament is concerned, Bone still thinks WSU has an opportunity to get there without winning the Pac-10 Tournament. But he feels the Cougars would need to win their last three conference games, they host USC and UCLA next week, and advance — and play well — in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game.

But he said the first concern is the Huskies (19-8, 10-5). WSU won the first game, 87-80, on Jan. 30 between the teams. But UW is 13-0 at Edmundson Pavilion and has won its last two meetings there against WSU.

"It's a different game there," Bone said. "It's very physical.

"It helps that you've had some players in that environment before."

Bone dismissed the notion that the Huskies might still be motivated by fans storming onto the floor at Friel Court to celebrate after the last game in the rivalry.

"I think they're motivated differently than the fans rushing the court," he said. "I'm sure there's more at stake."

Bone also does not want to provide UW players with any extra motivation. That includes Twitter posts.

"Nobody wants to go in that direction," he said. "I've not said anything this week, but I've mentioned a number of times that we need to be smart with what we tweet."

One of Bone's most recent tweets noted that he returned from Seattle last night after watching some high-school basketball games. That meant the Cougars did not practice Wednesday. Bone said junior guard Faisal Aden, who was sent back to Pullman before the ASU game for more treatment on his knee, has been able to rest four of the last six days.

Bone said Aden has tendonitis in his knee and, while he thinks he could play Sunday night at UW, Bone did not rule out surgery for him during the offseason.

"I don't think it's better," he said. "It's bothered him since he stepped on campus."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • UW junior guard Isaiah Thomas receives a lot of attention for his play, including a recent article in Sports Illustrated, but Bone said WSU also must be cognizant of 6-9 senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who averages 16.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

    "Bryan-Amaning is playing really well," he said. "He's doing a good job in a lot of ways."

  • The Cougars' zone stymied the Huskies in the first meeting between the schools as UW shot 37 percent from the field.

    "I think we'll try and do what was successful in the first game against them," Bone said. "We'll anticipate making some adjustments based on what they're going to do."

  • One of Bone's former players at Portland State, Julius Thomas, a 6-5, 240-pound tight end, is at the NFL Combine. He said he is not surprised that Thomas is an NFL prospect because his father, Greg, played at the University of Pacific. He said when Thomas played basketball, his staff compiled video clips of former UW standout Jon Brockman to show him "the type of player we expect him to be."


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