This week in Cougar Hoops

IT'S ONE THING to win both ends of a Pac-12/10 doubleheader against the Oregon schools when they're down. It's entirely another to beat the co-league leaders within a three-day span, as Washington State with its wins over Stanford and California last week.

I'm won't pretend I've got the history of Cougar basketball down pat, but I doubt I'd get much argument in saying this was WSU's most satisfying league sweep of the past decade. Not to mention, probably the most needed, given that the Cougars were reeling at 1-4 and in danger of becoming forgotten.

The only Pac-12/10 sweep since 2000 that comes close to last week's accomplishment came during the 2006-07 season, when the Cougars handed Arizona and Arizona State losses. The Sun Devils weren't very good, at 6-8 and 0-3. But Arizona was ranked seventh in the country, and blew into Pullman with a 12-1 record. The Wildcats left with a 77-73 overtime loss, just their second defeat to the Cougars in 43 games.

The only sweep in competition came during the 2008-09 season, when Washington State again beat the Arizona schools. Both came into Pullman with winning records; ASU was 21-6 at the time.

Now, it could be argued that either sweep of the Arizona schools was comparable, or perhaps even better, because the Pac-12/10 was much tougher then than it is this season. California and Stanford may have been co-league leaders heading into the week, but they're hardly considered around the country as formidable.

Nonetheless, what's most important for Washington State is how it reacts to its great week. Not much has changed for the Cougars, despite the sweep. Home teams are regularly winning around the Pac-12 this season, in large part because the league is weak. But if WSU can break that trend and pick off one or two road wins this upcoming week in Arizona, then maybe the Cougars are on to something.

Did you know? During the past decade, the Cougars have a Pac-10 home sweep in every series except UCLA and USC. The last time WSU beat UCLA and USC in Pullman was 1992-93, when the Cougars defeated USC 73-51 and UCLA 67-56.

The week ahead: Washington State's (11-8, 3-4) hits the road this week, playing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Arizona, and 2 p.m. Saturday at Arizona State (6-13, 2-5). Both games are televised by Root Sports Northwest.

Arizona isn't the beast we remember from the past, particularly at home. During their most recent home stand, the Wildcats went 1-1, losing to Oregon and rallying to beat Oregon State in overtime. Arizona is coming off a road split of the newbie schools, beating Utah and losing 64-63 at Colorado.

With Derrick Williams gone to the NBA, the Wildcats lack a proven go-to scorer. Three players average 11 points a game in forwards Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill and guard Kyle Fogg. Arizona's strength is its defense. The Wildcats rank eighth nationally in 3-point field goal defense (27 percent) and 46th in overall field goal defense (40.2).

Washington State is 16-53 all time against Arizona. The Wildcats swept the season series last year, but prior to that, WSU won three consecutive games against Arizona, including 78-76 in Tucson in 2010.

It could be argued that Saturday's opponent, Arizona State, is the worst team in the Pac-12. At times, the Sun Devils have looked the part. ASU comes into the week on a two-game losing streak, having lost by double digits at Colorado and Utah.

There's little debating Arizona State is the Pac-12's dullest team. Even though ASU shoots the ball at a decent clip (47.3 percent), the Sun Devils score only 63 points a game. It is a classic Herb Sendek dumb-it-down, minimize possessions-type team and hope it works out in the end. Rarely, it does for these less-than-talented Sun Devils.

Arizona State's leading scorer is junior guard Trent Lockett, who is averaging 13.9 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Guard Keala King, who would have been ASU's co-leading scorer, was booted from the team a few weeks ago.

Last season, WSU split its series with ASU, with each team winning at home. The Cougars have dominated the Sun Devils in recent years, going 7-3 since the 2006-07 season. Washington State is 34-35 all-time against Arizona State.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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