FOLLOWING ANOTHER uninspiring performance by Washington State’s men’s basketball team, my mind began to think about what to write for the week ahead in Cougar basketball. What can be said that hasn’t already been said? The future? Then I thought, well, let’s see what athletic director Bill Moos has to say on the subject during his weekly Monday morning radio show.
Turns out, Moos is out of explanations, too. During his one-hour show, Moos devoted about two minutes talking about Cougar basketball. Instead, Moos spent most of his time on the upcoming football signing day and retiring track coach Rick Sloan.
All worthy topics, and at the moment, probably of more interest to Cougar fans. Frankly, the direction of WSU basketball is a difficult one for an athletic director to discuss midway through a season, particularly when the ship is sinking as fast as this one. It’s Moos’ job to remain as supportive as possible, and he was.
Moos made a few excuses for the Cougars, noting the team’s lack of a point guard and the absence of DaVonté Lacy. Moos was empathetic for coach Ken Bone and the players before briefly turning his attention to WSU’s upcoming game against Washington, this Saturday in Beasley Coliseum.
“We need to have the facility jumping and get some energy in there that the players can feed off of,” Moos said. “I know we will get after them as well as we can.”
That’s going to take some doing. Less than 6,500 fans combined turned out for the two Oregon games, including 3,866 for Sunday’s 71-44 wipeout against Oregon. It will be interesting to see how many people show for Saturday’s 3 p.m. Apple Cup game.
The week ahead: Washington State (8-12, 1-7) hits the midpoint of the Pac-12 season with Saturday’s home game against Washington (13-8, 5-3).
Washington at Washington State
Tip off: 3 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network
The series: Huskies lead 176-100
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On paper, these are two teams speeding in opposite directions. The Cougars have sunk the bottom of the Pac-12 standings, while Washington is only a half-game out of second place.
It’s hard to imagine the Cougars will play as poorly against the Huskies as they did against the Oregon schools. If nothing else, you’d think WSU will sell out on defense and give a good performance at that end of the floor. (That’s my inner-Bill Moos writing there.)
So let’s assume offensively-challenged Washington State plays with great effort on defense. Is that enough to beat Washington? Probably not, but it should give the Cougars a license to hang the Huskies for most of 40 minutes. This isn’t a great, probably not even a good Washington team, but it doesn’t take much to be 5-3 in the Pac-12 this season.
Outside of Arizona, this has been a disappointing conference in 2013-14.
Washington is in its current position because it has protected the home floor, and won a road game at Arizona State. But the Huskies also have double-digit losses at California and Stanford, as well as a 71-62 defeat at Arizona. And UW was game in holding off the Oregon schools for a pair of wins last week.
For the second time in three games, Washington State will face one of the Pac-12’s top scoring threats in C.J. Wilcox. The Huskies’ senior guard is the league’s No. 2 scorer at 19.6 points per game, and leads the Pac-12 in 3-pointers (3.05 per game) and minutes played (35.6/game).
As Wilcox goes, so do the Huskies. Wilcox rarely struggles, but when he does, UW pays; his lone single-digit scoring performance of the season (nine points) resulted in a 12-point loss at Stanford. Wilcox has shot 50 percent or better in five of his past six games, including a 12-of-18 outing against Colorado. Wilcox isn’t bashful about shooting 3-pointers, as he has taken at least seven 3-point attempts in 13 of UW’s 21 games.
Interestingly, UW’s next two best scorers come from the Portland-area in guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews. Williams-Goss, a freshman, is coming off a season-high 32 point performance against Oregon State. The 6-foot-3 guard averages 13 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game. Andrews, a sophomore guard, is averaging 12.7 points a game.
Washington’s top two rebounders are senior forward Perris Blackwell (6.6 ppg) and junior guard Mike Anderson (6.3 ppg).
As a team, this isn’t one of coach Lorenzo Romar’s usual electric offenses. The Huskies average 76.5 points a game, and give up 76. There is hope for WSU’s offense here, as UW’s defense is suspect; the Huskies are the league’s worst – by a wide margin – in field goal defense at .478 per game.
Last year, Washington went 3-0 against the Cougars, including a win at the Pac-12 tournament. The Huskies have won six consecutive games over WSU. The Cougars’ last Apple Cup win was 80-69 in Seattle in 2011.
Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel