FROM PULLMAN -- As if there wasn't enough pressure on Washington State already, the Cougars now must try to defeat Oregon State without the services of starting point guard Mike Ladd, who will miss tonight's game with a left knee injury. Read on for more.
Ladd is sitting on WSU's bench in a T-shirt and sweatpants. He'll be a spectator tonight after aggravating an unspecified injury in his left knee. If you recall, Ladd was the primary cog in WSU's 71-68 win over Oregon State in Corvallis last month. The senior scored a career-high 23 points in that game, including 17 in the first half. Without him, WSU's only player with point guard experience is Royce Woolridge, who began the season as the team's primary ball-handler but has filled that role in a complementary fashion since. Behind him, DaVonte Lacy figures to be their only real option. ... Ladd's absence could also be felt on the glass. WSU rebounded pretty well in these teams' first meeting, but Ladd was a big part of that and has been a weapon on the offensive glass this season. Take that away, and the bigger, longer Beavers have a pretty clear advantage in that area. ... It's worth noting that the Cougars did manage to beat OSU without a key player last season, losing Brock Motum to an ankle sprain in the CBI but still cruising to a 72-55 win. Then again, that WSU team still had Reggie Moore and was playing some of their best basketball of the season. ... Before learning of Ladd's injury, I figured I'd write in this space about how tonight's game is a matchup of teams that have struggled to close out games this season. And if you think the Cougars have been bad in that area, consider this number from a story John Hunt wrote this week: in each of OSU's last seven games, the Beavers have either been leading or within two points of the lead in the final 1:14. They lost five of those. One of them was to WSU, which didn't exactly close out its win in stellar fashion that day -- in fact, the Cougars gave up a potential game-tying 3-point attempt to Ahmad Starks despite trying to foul him as he brought the ball across midcourt. And there were missed opportunities by both teams. With Ladd out, WSU would do well to even get itself into a close, late-game situation.
We'll be back afterward.