The high point of last week's Bay Area debacle was the first half against California, where Washington State fought the Bears to a near draw at halftime. Then after the game, Cal coach Mike Montgomery virtually tosses that performance under the bus, telling the San Jose Mercury News "We were not ready to play. We were late getting onto the floor to shoot, late coming into the locker room. There were no knees bouncing, there was nothing bouncing."
Coach speak? Perhaps. But Monty proved it might have been true after the Bears ran WSU out of the gym during the second half, outscoring the Cougars 42-22.
So we move on. Move on to a couple old friends, the oldest in Cougar basketball history in Oregon and Oregon State. No schools have played more games against Washington State than the Beavers (288 games) and Ducks (285).
Better still, these are teams Washington State can, and probably should beat at home. Oregon has a four-game losing streak after starting 13-0, and is a last-second overtime win over Utah away from a winless Pac-12 record. Nothing less than a split this week is acceptable if the Cougars want to provide a shred of hope.
The Cougars have had decent recent success against the week's first opponent, Oregon State. WSU has won two of the past three games and six of the past eight against the Beavers. Since 2007, it's been a series dominated by the Cougars, with a 12-4 record against OSU.
Oregon State is coming off a solid 80-72 win over Oregon, a team that has bedeviled the Beavers in recent years. The Beavers are capable; they have a win at Maryland, as well as Stanford, a team that handled the Cougars last week.
But OSU's biggest problem is consistency. You never know when the Beavers will show up. The Beavers rarely seem to play well in back-to-back games. Coming off a nice effort against Oregon, you half expect OSU to go through the motions against the Cougars, given the Beavers' track record this season. So we'll see.
Oregon State's star is senior guard Roberto Nelson, the Pac-12's leading scorer at 21.5 points a game. Nelson, touted as a difference-maker since he signed at OSU four years ago, rarely disappoints, scoring at least 20 points in 11 of the Beavers' 17 games this season. Nelson is a terrific shooter, who averages 88 percent from the free throw line and 39 percent from 3-point range.
Last year, Nelson had two of his lowest scoring Pac-12 games against Washington State, with 14 and 17-point performances.
The Beavers could be on the brink of a breakout as forward Eric Moreland returned to the lineup five games ago following a long suspension. The 6-10 junior is rounding into form, with double-doubles in his past three games.
The forward-heavy Beavers also can expect to get strong performances from forwards Devon Collier (14.4 ppg, 7.2 rebounds) and Angus Brandt (12.4 ppg, 4.5 rebounds).
As for the Ducks, recent success hasn't been on WSU's side. Oregon has a five-game winning streak over the Cougars, including a sweep last year. The Ducks have won eight of the past nine against WSU, starting with a double-overtime win in 2009. This has tended to be a streaky series, as prior to WSU's recent slide against Oregon, the Cougars won five consecutive games. That five-game winning streak brought an end to six-year winless drought against the Ducks.
Oregon is falling as fast as any team in the country. Just three weeks ago the Ducks were 13-0 and among the country's top 10. But after consecutive losses to Colorado, California, Stanford and Oregon State, the Ducks are suddenly nowhere near elite, and in danger of falling from the NCAA Tournament picture.
Shoddy defense has been Oregon's problem of late. During this losing streak, Ducks' opponents are shooting nearly 52 percent. The Ducks showed flashes of being a good team during non-league play, with nice wins over Georgetown, Illinois and Brigham Young. Oregon will try to find that team again during its Washington trip.
If it weren't for Oregon's strong early-season play, you could say chemistry and familiarity are an issue for the Ducks, a team that relies heavily on transfers. Oregon's top two scorers this season were both elsewhere last year in Joseph Young (Houston), Mike Moser (UNLV) and Jason Calliste (Detroit). Combined, those three are averaging 44 points and 13 rebounds a game.
If the Ducks have a "glue-guy," it's senior guard Johnathan Loyd, who has been with the program for four years. Loyd is the team's best playmaker at six assists a game, and occasionally has spurts from 3-point range.
Regardless of the Ducks' recent skid, they are entertaining, leading the Pac-12 in scoring at 87.4 points a game (at the opposite end is Washington State, at 63.4 ppg).
This could be WSU's highest scoring game of the year, because not only does Oregon push the tempo and score in bunches, the Ducks – like the Cougars – are charitable with their field goal defense, each with a season average of .439. Que Johnson has been the go-to guy for the Cougs with Lacy out. He's led the Cougars in scoring six times this season and in each of the past three games. In six conference tilts, which account for six of his seven starts, he's averaging 14 ppg.
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel