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WSU ready for desert trip


COUGARS

As promised earlier today - when I made a stupid mistake I didn’t realize I had made until one of you nice people pointed out to me without, and I appreciate this, telling me how stupid I was – I’ve got another post. This one has our Thursday morning items – and on Wednesday night, no less – for you to read. Have fun.

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• Practice today was not, with the emphasis on not, the Cougars’ best of the year. But, as assistant coach Ben Johnson said late in the two-hour session, they got better, which is what practice, Allen Iverson be damned, is all about. But I digress. This post is for giving you the notes that may or may not appear in tomorrow’s S-R (I’m not sure how much space will be available). No matter what, you can read them here first – if you don’t mind dealing with the unedited versions. Here they are …

PULLMAN – The Washington State Cougars have played in a couple of really hostile environments this season, losing in early December in the cacophony of sound that is Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center and at Kansas State three days later.

But none of those compare to Arizona’s McKale Center when the 14,545 are revved up by their Wildcats.

“It’s similar to Gonzaga,” said Abe Lodwick, a redshirt sophomore who experienced the waves of sound last season. “But the crowd is two to three times as big. Arizona’s huge. I know they’re a team that always goes on runs, and when they do, that place, it’s like the roof could blow off the top.”

The Cougars seemed to have the crowd, and the Wildcats, under control last year, but both got going after halftime and UA posted one of its 21 wins, en route to its 25th consecutive NCAA berth.

That streak is in jeopardy this year as the Wildcats (7-7 overall, 1-1 in Pac-10 play) have been blown out at home by 30 (by BYU) and lost on the road to Oklahoma and San Diego State.

Still, the Wildcats can score in bunches, led by senior guard Nic Wise and precocious freshman big Derrick Williams.

“When a team goes on their runs – and they will against us this year – that’s when, hopefully, your team is mentally strong,” Lodwick said. “For a team that’s young, that’s tough, but I feel our team is an exception.”

The game is also an exception to the norm, being held on a Friday instead of the usual Thursday to avoid a conflict with the BCS national title football game.

•••

Last season guard Marcus Capers shot 29 percent from the floor. Through 14 games this season – WSU is 11-3, 1-1 in the Pac-10 – Capers is shooting 56.7 percent.

“Coach (Ken Bone) told me, well actually coach and my dad (Frankie) told me, for us to win, I am going to have to stay on the court,” Capers said. “The way for me to stay on the court, I have to stay aggressive on offense. If I don’t, it’s like they are guarding four people.”

Capers stayed aggressive last Saturday in the Cougars’ 65-60 win over Oregon State. That aggressiveness paid off in a big way with 7 minutes, 47 seconds left.

The Beavers had cut a 10-point WSU lead to two and, with leading scorer Klay Thompson on the bench with four fouls, the Cougars had gone more than 3 minutes without scoring.

But Capers ended the drought in a big way, gathering a DeAngelo Casto fumbled pass, attacking the rim and dunking, bringing the Beasley Coliseum crowd to its feet.

Capers finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, the first double-double of the sophomore’s career.

•••

WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS

RECORD: 1-1 Pac-10, 11-3 overall

COMING UP: Friday at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. (PST), FSN; Sunday at Arizona State, 11:30 a.m. (PST), FSN.

OUTLOOK: The Cougars’ first Pac-10 road trip this season starts in a place, Tucson, where WSU has won just twice in the past 26 years. Both of those have come since 2005, when the Cougars broke a 20-game losing streak at the McKale Center. The Wildcats are led by a senior (Nic Wise) and a freshman (Derrick Williams), both of whom average 15.1 points per game. Up the road in Tempe, WSU will be facing an ASU team that lost both games in Los Angeles last weekend. The defeats couldn’t have been more different, as the Sun Devils rallied but still lost a 72-70 shootout at UCLA before shooting 24 percent in a 47-37 loss at USC.

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• That’s it for now. By the way, for those of you readers residing in Phoenix or Tucson, should I bring shorts? Before you answer, remember, up here this time of year we think 50 degrees is broiling. … We’ll be back with our morning post. Until then …


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