Ignoring WSU's two neutral-site games in Kansas City, the Cougars' only road game of the season ended with a 58-56 overtime loss at Pepperdine. Wednesday's game at Stanford is the first time the Cougars have left the state of Washington in 50 days, since returning from Kansas City on Nov. 21.
It's probably as good as any time to get out of Pullman. Despite a sluggish start Saturday night, Washington State (9-5, 0-1) clearly blew a chance to start Pac-12 play 1-0. You can blame the loss on the Cougars not being ready to play, or Desmond Simmons' defensive game of his life, or the Pac-12 schedule maker for putting a rivalry game in Pullman when many students were still on their holiday break.
It was an all-too-typical WSU performance of the past few years. This team has heart. Boy, does it try hard. But determination only takes a team so far in college athletics. The Cougars can really some times fall flat in the execution department, and that was apparent Saturday.
Oh well. On to make-up week for the Cougars, who will attempt to erase the Apple Cup misery with a split or better in the Bay Area against Stanford and California.
The week ahead: Time to get used to a new wrinkle in Pac-12 scheduling, as Wednesday games become a regular staple this season. The Cougars play Stanford (9-6, 0-2) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a 1 p.m. Saturday game at California (9-5, 1-1).
Both games are televised on the Pac-12 Network.
Stanford is one of three Pac-12 teams that opened Pac-12 play with a pair of losses. During their opening-week LA trip, the Cardinal lost to USC 71-69 and UCLA 68-60. Based on quality of opponents, Stanford is exactly where it should be. None of the Cardinal's nine wins have come over a team ranked among the country's top 100 in RPI. Stanford is 0-5 against RPI top 100 opponents.
If that trend continues, the Cougars are in trouble. Washington State is No. 194.
Statistically, the Cardinal are much like Washington State. Stanford is challenged offensively, as it ranks among the country's bottom one-third in field goal and 3-point field goal percentage. The Cardinal rely on defense, where they hold opponents to a 40.8 percent field goal percentage, and nearly five blocked shot per game.
The Cardinal are led by Dwight Powell, a 6-10 junior forward who averages 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Powell struggled in the loss to USC, scoring 11 points on just 5 of 15 shooting. Powell had a five-game stretch earlier this season where he scored at least 20 points four times, including a season-high 29 points against Denver.
Sophomore guard Chasson Randle is Stanford's second leading scorer at 13.1 points a game. Don't forget junior forward Josh Huestis, who averages 9.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Later this week, the Cougars travel to Berkeley to play California. The Bears started the season 6-0, but are 3-5 since then. Cal split its opening league series, beating USC 72-64, and losing to UCLA 79-65.
The only comparable on Cal and Washington State's schedule is Pepperdine. The Bears easily handled the Waves 79-62, but the game was in Berkeley, whereas the Cougars played Pepperdine in Malibu.
California is sharp offensively, at least inside the arc. The Bears are shooting 45.5 percent this season, and average 71 points a game. Cal barely gives the 3-point shot a chance, as it makes just 3.4 per game, ranking No. 339 of 345 teams in the country. The Bears also dominate the boards, as its rebounding margin of 7.2 is among the country's best.
Among WSU's challenges here is Cal guard Allen Crabbe, one of the most dynamic scorers the Cougars will face all season. The 6-6 junior guard averages 21.4 points a game, and comes off a 27-point performance against USC. Crabbe has scored double digits in 19 consecutive games, and has a season-high of 33 against Pepperdine. Crabbe has made just one 3-point field goal in his past three games, yet has games of 27, 21 and 27 points.
Junior guard Justin Cobbs has proven to be an excellent complement to Crabbe, as the 6-3 junior guard averages 15.6 points a game. Cobbs' scoring has cooled of late, and he shot just 8 of 25 during the Bears' trip to LA last week.
California has four players averaging at least five rebounds a game. Sophomore forward David Kravish leads the way with 7.8 per contest.
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel
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