COUGAR NOTEBOOK: Leach's early impact

PULLMAN – The early response to Mike Leach's hiring as football coach at WSU continues to generate income for the Cougars. Chris Walker, one of the executives in charge of fund-raising, said more than 1,100 season tickets and nearly $500,000 in donations and pledges have been generated since Leach came on board.

"It's been unbelievable, the way the fan base has been stirred," Walker said on radio Monday during athletic director Bill Moos' weekly show in Spokane.

Walker said interest also has picked up on the new premium seats. Only two of the 21 suites (priced at $30,000, $40,000 and $50,000) have gone unclaimed, Walker said.

Walker pointed out that fans can support the WSU athletes' scholarship fund for as little as $50 a year, or $4.20 a month.

Moos wants annual donations to pay for the Cougars' $7 million-plus in scholarships. Last year, WSU raised $2.8 million for scholarships.

MOOS SAID IT
Leach is suing ESPN and Texas Tech over matters related to his firing at Tech in 2009 but Moos, citing his strong ties with ESPN and the network's extensive coverage of Leach's hiring, said he's not worried about Leach's suit having any impact on ESPN's treatment of the Cougars.

"I don't foresee any problems at all," Moos said.

ON THE HARDCOURT, Brock Motum has provided consistent scoring for the Washington State Cougars this season, and the big Australian's career-high, 27-point performance against Santa Clara on Sunday made him a worthy pick as the Pacific-12 Conference Player of the Week.

Offense almost always draws more attention than defense with most observers, but Motum and his teammates are well aware of the defensive contributions of senior guard Marcus Capers.

"When you can eliminate the opposite team's best player, that usually messes with their structure, and Marcus is that guy for us," Motum said. "He's an unbelievable defender. He does it without credit, I think. He deserves a lot more credit. Day in and day out, every night, he brings it."

MANY WSU BASKETBALL fans registered their concerns when Ken Bone replaced defense-minded Tony Bennett and pledged to bring a wide-open offense to the Palouse, but things seem to be working out just fine at both ends of the court.

The Cougars rank fifth in the Pacific-12 Conference in both points per game (73.0) and points per game allowed (64.5). WSU leads the Pac-12 in field-goal shooting percentage (49.0) and is fifth in field-goal shooting percentage defense (39.5).

Bone made a conscious decision to slow down the offense a tad this year after Pac-12 scoring champion Klay Thompson left for the NBA. Still, the Cougars are slightly ahead of last year's scoring average of 72.9 with two games left before the start of Pac-12 play.

BONE SAID Tuesday that all three of the Cougars' injured players may be back in action when WSU takes on visiting Western Oregon on Sunday.

Senior guard Faisal Aden, WSU's leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, has missed three games with a concussion.

Senior forward Abe Lodwick, a two-year starter, has yet to play this season due to a fractured foot. Junior guard Mike Ladd, a Fresno State transfer, has missed five games with a sprained thumb.

Western Oregon is an NCAA Division II team, but the Wolves are 8-1. They'll carry an eight-game winning streak into Saturday afternoon's game at Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, Calif.

The Cougars are playing Western Oregon for the first time since 1935-36, when WSU won a pair of games against the Wolves. WSU is 6-4 with a four-game winning streak.

TURNOVERS HAD BEEN a major concern for the Cougars, but they've limited turnovers to 26 the past two games.

Bone was extremely concerned about rebounding when the season started, and the Cougars did nothing to calm the coach when they were outrebounded in each of the first three games. Since then, however, WSU has outrebounded all but one team, and the Cougars battled New Mexico to a tie on the boards.

WSU IS OFFERING free bus service from Pullman to the Spokane Arena for the Cougars' first Pac-12 men's games, Dec. 29 against Oregon and Dec. 31 against Oregon State.

Fans must sign up at www.wsucougars.com by Dec. 21. The Thursday game with Oregon starts at 6 p.m., and the Saturday game with Oregon State is set for 3 p.m.

The Cougars also hope to set up bus transportation from the Tri-Cities to Pullman for all football games next fall.

WITH STUDENTS GONE on Christmas break, small crowds figure to be hand for the men's game with Western Oregon and the Monday women's game with 14th-ranked Louisville.

The Lady Cardinals are 8-2, and they love to get up and down the court and toss up 3-pointers. It figures to be a major defensive challenge for the 6-4 Cougars, but WSU is holding opponents to 57.5 points per game, almost 20 less than Louisville's 77.0 average.

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