HOOPS: Are Cougs ready to turn a corner?

PULLMAN -- Contrary to previous belief, coach Ken Bone says high-scoring guard Mike Ladd's knee injury does not have to do with a previous injury suffered in high school, and believes the senior should see the hardwood again this season. Also, Bone believes the team could turn the proverbial corner at any point – but nothing can happen until the Cougs get a win.

The Cougs are playing better basketball of late, that's inarguable. After losing by a combined three points to Oregon and Oregon State this week, albeit at home, the Cougs are playing a team oriented game. But the wins haven't followed.

An additional scoring option from senior Mike Ladd could put the team over the top, but according to Bone, when that will happen is very much in the air.

"It doesn't look promising," said Bone of the odds Ladd plays this week. "He did not practice today."

Bone said Ladd would definitely travel with the team, and is feeling better than in recent days. The head coach said it's a situation in which Ladd would have to play through the pain. He doesn't believe the injury could worsen, though the extent of the discomfort in Ladd's knee is plainly visible.

"He'll need a little bit of time," Bone said. "Right now, it's just too painful."

The left knee problem, once believed to be an aggravated injury from his high school playing days, now appears to be a completely separate issue. Team doctors told Bone today that it has nothing to do with screws implanted into Ladd's knee during his high school career. Instead, the tendon is merely aggravated and inflamed and will take time to heal.

"He's doing some therapy stuff and doing a lot of stretching," Bone said. "It's not like he's a soft player or anything, it's just too painful."

Bone added Ladd is ‘probably closer to 75 percent than he is to 95 percent,' and probably won't feel great until April or May.

IN LADD'S PLACE, sophomore guards Royce Woolridge and DaVonté Lacy have been posting remarkable numbers as of late. On Wednesday against the Beavers, Lacy posted a new career-high 27 points. Woolridge answered Saturday against the Ducks with a 36-point performance of his own.

"DaVonté is a big time shooter especially when the game is on the line," Bone said.

Lacy hit a game-tying three to send the game into overtime Saturday against Oregon.

"We've needed (Royce) more as of late," he said. "We've tried to create situations where he can be more aggressive."

Woolridge transferred from Kansas two seasons ago as a true shooting guard and averaged at least 28 points per game every season of his high school career. This season is the first in which he's played extended minutes at point guard.

ONE COUG OPENING many eyes of late is true freshman walk on guard Bryce Leavitt. The Kennewick native is averaging over 20 minutes per game in his last two contests and appears to becoming a mainstay in the Cougs regular rotation.

"We see him every day in practice -- he's a tough kid," Bone said. " He plays hard… decent ball handler… decent passer."

Bone said even though Leavitt came out of Kennewick a heralded shooter, his role in the offense as of now is to facilitate the guys on the floor and play good defense -- something he's done admirably in the last few contests.

THOUGH THE COUGS have a daunting schedule to close out the year, Bone believes the team could make a push and gain some momentum headed into the Pac-12 tournament. The team needs to get the monkey off it's back and get that vaunted ‘W' in the records column to move forward.

"Our goal right now is to get a win," Bone said. "Our next game is the biggest game of the year. Once we get that, we'll talk about other goals. We just need a win."

The Cougs travel to Tempe this week to take on Arizona State, followed by a trip down to Tucson to face-off against the 12th ranked Arizona Wildcats. The team will then travel to Seattle for a trip against the Dawgs on March 3, and will finally close out the Pac-12 regular season in Pullman against the Southern California schools.

The Pac-12 tournament begins March 13 in Las Vegas.

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