Cougar hoops round up: No letdown this time

PULLMAN - You couldn't blame Randy Green if he was still dancing on Cloud Nine after WSU's upset win over No. 10 Washington. After all, as the only Cougar senior, he's endured more heartache than any of his teammates -- and prior to Saturday had gone 0-3 against the Dawgs in his native Seattle. But you won't find the scrappy sixth-man gloating. Instead, he's making sure his young comrades don't fall into the letdown-after-a-huge-win trap as they prep for this week's swing through Los Angeles.

"A win like that can do one of two things," said Green, a guard who hails from Seattle's Rainier Beach High. "It can boost your team and get you going in the right direction. Or it can also give you a sense of false security, like you've arrived.

"We just have to focus on the task ahead. It's just one game, and one game doesn't make a season. We have to keep it rolling." Even WSU head coach Dick Bennett, who typically is on the sobering side, admitted the Cougars looked "quite good" in knocking off their in-state rivals. Keeping in character this week, however, Bennett isn't letting his players get too full of themselves heading into UCLA on Thursday and USC on Saturday.

"For us to win we have to play up. We can't win with our normal level of play. Every game we have to play up," Bennett said. "So when you have a really good win, you worry about can we duplicate that level of play."

Sophomore guard Josh Akognon, who scored 27 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer in WSU's 78-71 win in Seattle, knows such talk is classic Dick Bennett.

"Coach is the master at not letting you get big-headed. After a big win, you're not gonna get something positive out of him for a week," said Akognon, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Week. "As a team, we came together and said, ‘Okay, we beat the No. 10 team in the country.' We know what Coach is doing, but we can still sit back and be comfortable with it and go into the next game confident."

Bennett's caution is well founded. Last season the Cougars pulled off what seemed a program-changing upset at Arizona and then fell flat, losing five of their next six games. Akognon said the team let the win go to their heads.

"We just have to listen to Coach Bennett," Akognon said when asked how not to repeat the post-Arizona ordeal. "He's the master. He has 40 years of coaching. He knows exactly what he's talking about – it's up to us to listen to him."

ALL HAIL KYLE
Akognon may have been the high scorer and Pac-10 Player of the Week after upsetting the Huskies, but Bennett is among the camp that believes fellow sophomore Kyle Weaver was the player most responsible for Saturday's win. "Kyle was the key to the entire thing," Bennett said. "He stayed at a high level all night. There were times when he was clearly the best player on the floor."

Weaver finished with 19 points, six rebounds, six assists and -- despite seven turnovers -- did an admirable job filling in at point guard for injured Derrick Low (fractured foot, out six weeks).

FROM GRIDIRON TO HARDWOOD
Brandon Gibson, who caught nine passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns as a wide receiver with the Cougars football team this fall, has been working out with the WSU basketball team for the past couple weeks. The 6-foot, 195-pounder plays point guard. He was an all-league hoops performer at Rogers High in Puyallup.

So far, he's shown great ball-handling skills -- as well as a tendency to dribble between his legs and behind his back at every given opportunity -- to go with a solid jump shot and superior athleticism. Bennett is most impressed with Gibson's defense.

"He brings quickness on defense. When we put him and Jeremy (redshirting transfer Jeremy Cross) out there, that's a real quick, physical defensive backcourt," Bennett said.

Gibson says he's just working out with the basketball team to stay in shape for football, but Bennett said the true freshman has a chance at making the team if he wants to.

"If he wants to stay on all year we'll keep him on," Bennett said. "But we don't want to interfere with his football development. We've pretty much left it up to him."

NOTABLE NOTES:

* Bennett on the Washington win: "It probably means more because our fans got to enjoy this. The Arizona game may have carried more weight on the national scene as far as significance, but this was more significant to Cougars fans."

* ESPN's Joe Lunardi, otherwise known as Mr. Bracketology, says that if the season ended today, 9-3 Washington State would be a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament, traveling to Dayton, Ohio, for a first-round game against North Carolina State.

* Wearing a protective boot on his broken right foot that prevents him from walking without crutches, Derrick Low spent most of Monday's practice sitting in a chair. After the session ended, however, he snuck onto the court to take some shots, with a trainer fetching rebounds and passing to the stationary Low. At one point, Low drained eight straight treys from the left corner.

* After missing several months of action with a spinal cord injury, JC transfer Rodney Edgerson appears to be coming around physically and in his conditioning. Now, Bennett says, the 6-foot-4 scoring guard needs to work on his mindset. "I still think Rodney feels compelled to make plays in order to impress me, and all I want him to do is just play and use what he's got, and that's a good head for the game," Bennett said. "When that happens, his scoring will take care of itself." In eight games, Edgerson is averaging nine minutes and 1.8 points per contest.

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