The Cougars, who were leading the conference in field-goal shooting percentage defense at 38.2, contested precious few shots inside or outside as Oregon shot 69 percent in a 92-75 romp Thursday night.
"We're better than that," WSU coach Ken Bone promised. "I know it. Our guys know it. We'll come back Saturday and have a better game."
The Cougars had won six in a row since blowing a late, 14-point lead in a 64-63 loss to underwhelming UC Riverside on Nov. 27.
FRESHMAN GUARD DaVonté Lacy had season bests of 19 points and five 3-pointers to lead the Cougars against Oregon, but the former Curtis High School standout was hardly in a celebratory mood afterwards.
"Like coach said in the locker room, it was like a fight, and they punched first, second, third, fifth," Lacy said. We just seemed to never fight back. I don't think that's the team we are, and it's not the team we want to be known as."
SENIOR TEAM CAPTAINS Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers assured Lacy and WSU fans that things will improve on Saturday.
"Go out there and fight, fight, fight," Capers said. "Just play tough, man. You know what I'm saying? It's a pride thing. You've got to play with passion."
"Oregon State, they're not going to feel sorry for us," Lodwick said. "The least we can do is pull our chins up and go out there and show what we're really about. I know we're a tough team. We didn't show it (Thursday), but we will on Saturday."
BONE JOKED EARLIER in the season that his players might prefer playing in front of small crowds. After all, the Cougars are 5-0 in Pullman, where they average barely 3,200 fans.
The Cougars have drawn nearly 10,000 to each of their past two games, home-away-from-home contests with Pepperdine in Seattle and Oregon in Spokane. Both nights, fans often sat on their hands due to the Cougars' inconsistent intensity and efficiency.
The Cougars value the Spokane market and chose to open conference play in the Spokane Arena with Pullman largely deserted due to the holiday break from classes. WSU is providing free bus service from Pullman.
"If we'd played in Pullman (on Thursday), there probably would have been 12, 20 people in the crowd," Capers said.
AFTER THURSDAY'S GAME Bone probably empathizes with the college coach who once described his job as "watching a bunch of teen-agers run around with my paycheck in their mouth."
Oregon's two best players were senior transfers Oly Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech) and Joseph Devoe (Minnesota). The Cougars' two best players this year figured to be Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, but they passed up their senior seasons to turn pro.
SENIOR GUARD Faisal Aden, WSU's leading scorer with 14.2 points per game, scored just four points Thursday on 2-for-10 shooting.
In three games since recovering from a concussion, Aden is averaging 9.3 points and shooting 33 percent (11 for 33) coming off the bench.
Starting senior post Charlie Enquist, who had shooting the ball superbly of late, took no shots Thursday and played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble and defense issues.