Cougar hoops round up 2/4

<b>PULLMAN -- You can point to the woeful shooting from beyond the arc and at the free throw line for Washington State's heartbreaking overtime loss to UCLA on Thursday. But the real culprit may have been the injury bug.

Washington State's young Cougars were without junior guard Randy Green (leg) and senior forward Shami Gill (back), as they lost to UCLA in overtime for the second time in a month. Last night it was 58-56. In January it was 80-77 in double-overtime.

Green doesn't play a lot, but when he does he makes a mark. In fact, head coach Dick Bennett said Green's eight-minutes of ball-hawking defense was critical in last Saturday's huge upset at Arizona.

And Gill is as steady as they come, playing solid defense, rebounding up a storm and making heads up passes. He presence could have put a whole new spin on the Cougars' foul troubles in the post, where scoring leader Jeff Varem was playing with three and four for most of the second half.

Varem and Thomas Kelati led the Cougars with 17 points each, plus nine and seven rebounds, respectively.

But their efforts weren't enough to offset the horrendous shooting of the Cougars, who hit only 5 of 20 three-point tries and 9 of 17 free throws. Freshman point guard Derrick Low was 0-5 from long range and 2 of 11 overall.

The Cougars are now 9-10 on the season and will host USC on Saturday.

THE INJURY TO Gill, sadly, ends his season. Gill, a senior, hadn't played since Dec. 22 after a pre-existing back injury flared up. He made the trip to Arizona with the team and, while there, met with his uncle, who is a neurosurgeon. After the meeting, Gill and his family decided he should have surgery.

"I really wanted him to be able to return, but his overall health and future is far more important," Bennett said of the big senior from Canada. He was the Cougars' leading rebounder a year ago.

Green's injury is somewhat vexing. He hasn't practiced this week due to a leg problems that has bothered him for a month. Tests are being done to determine the cause and extent. Green, a product of Seattle's Rainier Beach High is averaging 2.5 points off the bench this season.

BEFORE THE ARIZONA STATE game a week ago, Bennett replaced freshman Kyle Weaver in the starting lineup with senior Chris Schlatter at the "3" position. Schlatter also started the Arizona game, and looks like he might be the starting small forward for the forseeale future.

"At Washington (where WSU lost two weeks ago), I was very disappointed in our lineup. It had been slipping during the week and I was going to change it then, but at the last minute I decided to stay with it for one more game," Bennett said.

"This is Chris' senior year and he's always done what he's been asked to do, so I thought he should get that chance (to play)."

While not as skilled offensively as Weaver, Schlatter is bigger and stronger, and was able to help the Cougs defend big men like ASU's Ike Diogu and Arizona's Channing Frye. Diogu, who is averaging over 20 points per game, was held to 15 against WSU, while Frye scored 11.

HOOPS NOTES: Bennett on the win at Arizona: "It was a moment in time when the basketball world looked at us," he said after Monday's practice. "There haven't been many of those, except for the streaks and the bad games. So it's good to have them look at us after some success."

On the heels of a career-best performance against Arizona, WSU senior guard Thomas Kelati was named Pac-10 Player of the Week. In Tucson, Kelati tied a career-high with 27 points and hit seven three-pointers. Against Arizona State two days earlier, he scored 17. Over the two games Kelati also averaged eight rebounds and 3.5 assists, shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 47.1 from three.


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