Bruins one of few Bennett hurdles left

IN THREE SHORT SEASONS as Washington State's head basketball coach, Dick Bennett has vanquished most of the demons left over from the calamity known as the Eastman-Graham Era. Tonight when his Cougars take on No. 13 UCLA in a regionally televised contest on FSN (5:30 pm), he'll have a chance to end one more nettlesome losing streak. In the process, he could get the Cougars a step closer to ridding themselves of the most troubling Albatross of them all.

UCLA, which comes into the game atop the Pac-10 at 19-4, has won 12 straight against WSU on the Cougars' home floor. That's one of the last of the Cougars' many losing streaks Bennett has yet to stop since arriving on the Palouse.

Making the task more daunting is this little nugget: WSU is 3-60 all-time against UCLA when the Bruins enter the contest nationally ranked. One of those Bruin victories came a month ago, when a Kyle Weaver layup at the buzzer didn't fall and the Bruins escaped with a 63-61 victory at Pauley Pavilion.

If Bennett can get his troops in the W column tonight, it'll give them a leg up in stopping the Mother of All Ugly Streaks: WSU's record of nine consecutive losing seasons.

The Cougs, fresh off another upset of Washington, come into the UCLA game at 10-9 with eight games left in the regular season, plus the Pac-10 tourney.

THE WIN OVER WASHINGTON on Saturday – the Cougs' second victory against the Dawgs this season -- was a multi-milestone event. It marked the first Cougars' home-and-home sweep of the Huskies since 1994. And it was the Cougs' first win over a ranked opponent at Friel Court since beating No. 25 California in 1997 (a 23-game losing streak).

Among other notable Bennett triumphs since he came to WSU:

* Won 57-51 at Alaska Fairbanks in November 2003 to break 27-game road losing streak.

* Won 55-50 at California in January 2004 to break 31-game losing streak in the state of California, a 22-game Pac-10 road losing streak, and a six-game skid to Golden Bears.

* Won 55-48 at UCLA in February 2004 for first win at UCLA in 47 games, including 39 at Pauley Pavilion. The win also broke a 22-game losing streak to UCLA.

* Won 60-51 at USC in February 2004 to snap seven-game losing streak at USC...first season sweep of USC since 1985-86...completed first road sweep of Los Angeles schools in WSU history.

* Won 60-51 vs. Stanford in Spokane in December 2004 to break 17-game losing streak against Cardinal.

* Won 70-63 at No. 11 Arizona in January 2005 to break 38-game losing streak against Arizona...stopped 20-game losing streak at Arizona...first win in 35 tries against a ranked Arizona team...halted a 26-game road losing streak against ranked opponents and a 48-game skid overall against top 25 teams. * Won 59-48 at Stanford in March 2005 to break eight-game losing streak at Stanford...first home-and-home sweep of Stanford since 1992-93.

* Won 78-71 at No. 10 Washington last month for first win at HecEd since 1994...first win in 57 games against a top 10 team on the road...broke 34-game losing streak to top 10 teams.

• Saturday's game with USC, also in Pullman, tips off at 3 and also will be televised live by FSN.

• WSU leads the Pac-10 and is ninth nationally in scoring defense (57.8 points per game). The Cougs also are first in the Pac-10 and No. 8 nationally in field goal percentage defense (38.8).

• Led by Josh Akognon (44 percent), the Cougars are the best three-point shooting team in the Pac-10 at 38.6 percent from beyond the arc. Akognon's accuracy ranks him No. 24 in the country.

• WSU's Kyle Weaver is one of the most statistically complete players in the Pac-10. He ranks third in assists (4.47 per game), sixth in steals (1.58 per game), ninth in assist/turnover ration (1.37), 10th in field goal percentage (48.9), and 18th in rebounding (4.7 per game).

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