Injuries crippling Cougars' guard depth

DEPTH AT GUARD did not seem to be an issue for Washington State -- until this week. In addition to losing senior Faisal Aden, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Thursday at Arizona, coach Ken Bone said during his Tuesday teleconference that the Cougars could be without another backcourt player for the remainder of the season when they host USC at 7:05 p.m. Thursday.

Junior Mike Ladd has not played since Jan. 7 against Colorado and Bone said he has a torn ligament on the outside of his thumb. He said Ladd's return this season is "up in the air." Ladd, who utilized his redshirt season in 2010-11 after transferring from Fresno State, averaged four points in 10 games this season.

"Right now I would lean toward him being back at some point," Bone said. "He's not going to be able to get a redshirt here. But I also don't want it to be a damaging situation where he's risking something long term."

Without Ladd and Aden, who averaged 14.5 points per game this season, Bone said WSU (11-10 overall, 3-6 conference) will have to make adjustments. He said that players, such as center Brock Motum and guards DaVonté Lacy and Reggie Moore, likely will have to look to score more and play increased minutes. Bone also said that guards Will DiIorio and Dexter Kernich-Drew could play more minutes.

In addition to that, he said he might slow down the Cougars' tempo and play more defenses to keep his team as fresh as possible.

Before his injury in the first half against Arizona, Aden was named as the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 28.5 points per game the previous week against Stanford and California.

"He was just coming off his best weekend as a Coug," Bone said. "Obviously, we're going to miss him tremendously."

Aden also was a frequent target for criticism among WSU fans because of his penchant for taking a high volume of shots.

"To me personally, he's a scorer and he showed that against the two best teams in the conference when they came to town," Bone said. "He could get to the rim and pull-up and shoot the midrange shot.

"I'm not sitting here saying he always took great shots. Most great scorers don't."

EVEN WITH ADEN, the Cougars won just one-third of their conference games, which was the worst mark of Bone's three-year WSU tenure during the first half of the season. Bone said he was happy that his team defeated "three really talented" teams in Oregon State, Stanford and California. Only the latter two came at Friel Court. Bone also noted that his team suffered a "couple of disappointing losses" at Utah and Arizona State.

"It's not what we hoped for," he said, referring to the 3-6 conference mark.

The Cougars' best opportunity for another conference win might come against the Trojans (6-16, 1-8). USC defeated Utah 62-45 on Thursday for its first conference win.

"They're a great defensive team," Bone said. "They have a lot of pride in getting stops every single possession."

According to college basketball statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy, USC ranks 49th in adjusted defense, but just 330th in offense. Despite that, Bone said the Trojans feature offensive threats in guard Maurice Jones (14.5 points per game) and forward Aaron Fuller (10.6).

WSU completes its home stand at 2 p.m. Saturday against UCLA (12-9, 5-4). The game will be televised on Root Sports. The Cougars have not defeated the Bruins at Friel Court since 1993.

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