This Week in Cougar Hoops

WASHINGTON STATE'S lost season took a break last week and made you remember what you like about Cougar basketball: A team that gives great effort, plays defense, hits a few shots in the clutch and plays well enough at home to pull out a win against the arch-rival.

All it took was the return of DaVonte Lacy to the lineup. Lacy, who has missed most of the Pac-12 season recovering from appendicitis and a rib injury, didn't have an impressive stat line: 2-10 from the field, five rebounds, 10 points in 33 minutes. But there is no doubt Lacy's presence lit a fire under the Cougars that you haven't seen in weeks.

For a change, it's someone else, and not Washington State, in the cellar of the Pac-12 standings.

It's unlikely that Lacy will dramatically change this season. But it's nice to know that as long as Lacy remains healthy, a few bright days are ahead during the final weeks of WSU's 2013-14 season.

This week marks the second half of the season, when the opponents become familiar. It starts tonight at Colorado, a team the Cougars took into overtime before losing 71-70. Then it's on to Utah, one of two teams WSU defeated during the first half of the Pac-12 season.

Four home games remain on WSU's schedule, California and Stanford next week, and USC and UCLA during the final week of regular season play, March 6-8.

Cougs at Colorado, Utah


At Colorado: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Pac-12 Network

The series: Buffaloes lead 4-1

At Utah: 5 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network

The series: Utes lead 15-4


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The week ahead: Washington State (9-12, 2-7) plays a pair at the Pac-12's newest members, Wednesday at Colorado (16-6, 5-4), then Saturday at Utah (14-7, 3-6). Combined, Colorado and Utah are 27-2 at home this season.

Things have significantly changed for the Buffaloes since they visited Spokane on Jan. 8. The following game at Washington, Colorado lost standout guard Spencer Dinwiddie for the season with a knee injury. Dinwiddie was a dynamic player and CU's leading scorer at 15 points a game. Since the Dinwiddie injury, Colorado is 2-4. The Buffaloes, once an NCAA tourney shoo-in, are no longer a certainty.

Dinwiddie wasn't a factor in Colorado's win over WSU in Spokane. Following a six-point performance, Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle told reporters "I don't know where Spencer was. Spencer wasn't in the Spokane Arena tonight."

At 5-4, Colorado is locked in a five-way tie for fourth place. Interestingly, should the Cougars pull an upset in Boulder, the Buffaloes could slide all the way to ninth place.

Look for Colorado to make a bit of a statement here, as Boyle clearly was upset with the Buffaloes' play against the Cougars in January.

Sophomore forward Josh Scott, who scored eight of his game-high 19 points in overtime vs. WSU, is Colorado's top player, averaging 14.4 points and 9.1 rebounds this season. Scott has 10 double-doubles, and in his most recent outing, matched a season high with 20 points in a win over Utah.

Junior guard Askia Booker is Colorado's best perimeter threat. He's averaging 13.4 points a game, and occasionally lights it up from beyond 3-point range; three weeks ago Booker hit 5 of 7 3-pointers in a loss to UCLA. Also scoring in double figures is sophomore forward Xavier Johnson (10.4 ppg). Freshman forward Wesley Gordon is also a player to watch, at 6.6 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.

Washington State didn't play at Colorado last year, but in 2012, lost 71-60 in Boulder.

Later in the week it's off to Utah, which brings a three-game losing streak into Saturday's game. The Utes are near-perfect at home, losing only to Oregon in overtime to kick off the Pac-12 season. Among Utah's home victims this season are UCLA and Oregon State.

Earlier this season, Washington State collected one of its two league wins with a close-to-the-vest 49-46 win over the Utes. Both teams shot poorly in the game, particularly Utah at 29.5 percent (13 of 44). Que Johnson led the Cougars with 14 points, most coming from his 10 of 13 performance from the foul line.

Utah feeds off the two-man game of Deion Wright and Jordan Loveridge. Wright, a junior guard, is averaging 16.1 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. He was just moderately effective the first go-round against WSU, scoring 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting. Loveridge, a sophomore forward, averages 16.0 points and 7.8 rebounds a contest. He shot 3 of 11 and scored 15 points against WSU in January.

Sophomore guard Brandon Taylor, averaging 10 points a game, is coming off one of his best performances of the season, scoring 17 in the overtime loss at Colorado. Taylor is an explosive perimeter threat, as he has made five 3-pointers against Oregon State and Colorado this season.

The last time the two teams played in Salt Lake City was 2012, when the Utes edged WSU 62-60 in overtime.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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