This week in Cougar Hoops

IT WOULD BE easy to stand up and tee off on the Cougars after a second straight basketball meltdown against the UW. Is this coach Ken Bone's fault? Who is Washington State's free throw coach, Shaq? There is a silver lining to Saturday's 59-55 loss to the Huskies, however.

Not to dismiss what a win over Washington would have meant. It would have been the best win of the season. Certainly would have given the Cougars some momentum heading into what they hope is a prolonged stay to southern California over the next two weeks.

Back to the silver lining, and here it is: maybe Saturday's loss helps Washington to the Pac-12 title and the tournament's No. 1 seed. And because Washington State is locked into the 8-9 game, the Cougars are going to have to play the Pac-12 champion in the tournament, should it beat Oregon State in the opener.

Who better to play than the Huskies?

Even though Washington State has a win over California – the other Pac-12 title contender at the moment – I like the Cougars' chances against Washington a little better. And who knows? Maybe it's a quarterfinal loss in the Pac-12 tournament that knocks the Huskies out of the NCAA tournament.

OK, I know, I know. It might be a reach. But it's too easy to be Dwight Downer after a debacle like Saturday. Maybe something good comes out of the loss. Since there's virtually no chance Washington State wins four games in four days at the Pac-12 tournament and goes dancing this year, being the team that knocks the Huskies off the dance floor would at least provide some satisfaction.

I suspect for Washington to become the Pac-12's No. 1 seed, it will have to sweep the LA schools this week. That alone probably puts the Huskies in the NCAAs. But who knows? The Pac-12 is very, very weak this year, and Washington has been a bubble team all season. Perhaps a WSU win over the Huskies in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals germinates that seed of doubt in the NCAA committee's mind that Washington isn't worthy.

Then again, beating Washington will require Washington State to win back-to-back games. That alone seems unlikely, from what we know of these inconsistent Cougars. On to the final regular season week ahead …

The week ahead: Washington State (14-14, 6-10) ends Pac-12 play this week with two games, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at UCLA (16-13, 9-7), and 3 p.m. Saturday at Southern California (6-23, 1-15). Neither game will be televised, although WSU-USC can be watched online at USCTrojans.com.

No team has had Washington State's number in recent years like UCLA. If anything, the Cougars have a slightly better chance on the road than home against the Bruins, but the record on either floor is woeful. Since the 1987-88 season, UCLA is 44-3 against the Cougars. But, WSU's odds of success are twice as good in Westwood, as two of those three wins were scored in Pauley. Since 2004, the Cougars are 2-6 at UCLA.

Hey, we're all about silver linings this week, remember?

In the first meeting this season between the two schools, UCLA handed the Cougars a 63-60 setback. WSU led 34-29 at half, a lead it maintained eight minutes into the second half. But the Bruins went on a 13-2 run to take control. As usual, Brock Motum was WSU's leader with 25 points, although 19 came during the first half.

At least Washington State gets to finish the regular season with a feel-good game, because anything other than a win over lowly USC would be a giant disappointment. Utah is the Trojans' lone win of the Pac-12 season, and USC comes into the week on a seven-game losing streak. USC often plays games competitively, they play tough defense but rarely do they have the firepower to finish the deal during the final 10 minutes.

When the teams played in Pullman, Washington State won 60-53, as Motum scored 26 points and eight rebounds. The Cougars had to withstand a brief second-half scare when USC cut the lead to four points with 6:42 remaining.

Unlike UCLA, the Cougars have had plenty of success against the Trojans in recent years. Since 2004, Washington State is 13-5 against the Trojans, and 5-3 at USC.

By the numbers: A sweep this weekend would assure Washington State of at least a .500 overall season record. The last time Washington State finished with a losing record was 2005-06, when the Cougars were 11-17.

Motum is likely to crack the school's single-season top 10 scoring list this weekend. Motum has 497 points through 28 games. No. 10 is Brian Quinnett (1989) with 516 points. With two regular season and a few potential postseason games remaining, Motum could finish as high as No. 5, which is 592 points, set by Vince Hanson in 1945.

Klay Thompson set the school's single-season scoring record at 733 points in 2010-11.

Motum has a 12-game double-digit scoring streak after leading the Cougars with 17 against Washington. He has reached double digits in 26 of 28 games.

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

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