FROM TEMPE — If you think the Cougars have been playing close games recently, you should take a look at Arizona State's game notes. The Sun Devils haven't done much for their fans' blood pressure recently, though the final results have been plenty acceptable. Read on.
Before we get into all that, it's noteworthy that the weather here is downright Pullman-like at the moment — there's been rain, there's been hail, and in some nearby areas — Tucson included — there's been real, live, actual snow. Snow. In Arizona. And the drivers here seem to have a hard enough time with the rain. I'd say the weather would give Washington State the advantage, but the teams are playing basketball, and basketball is played indoors, and it doesn't typically rain indoors. … Remember last week, when WSU's game against Oregon State was a battle of two teams that play close games but can't manage to win them? Well, ASU is the bizarro version of that — in the Sun Devils' last six games, they've been outscored 401-398, a stretch during which they've recorded a 3-3 record (including a buzzer-beating layup by Evan Gordon on Saturday against Colorado). And ASU leads the conference in games decided by five points or fewer with nine. Of course, ASU is 8-5 in conference play, while OSU is 3-10 and WSU is 2-11. … The Cougars are once again without Mike Ladd, who was seated on the bench in his warmup attire as I walked into the building. Dexter Kernich-Drew figures to replace him in the starting lineup, likely seeking redemption for his gaffe that cost WSU a chance to beat Oregon. … As we wrote in today's newspaper, this is a big game for Royce Woolridge, who grew up in Phoenix and has been an Arizona State supporter most of his life. He said he's happy to see the Sun Devils have turned things around this year, a far cry from some of the lean years this team had during Woolridge's childhood. He tracked down as many tickets as he could for friends and family — about 30, he figured — so there might be a little extra fire in him for this one, especially considering how well he played in his last game. And not just offensively. Woolridge said Monday he figures he'll defend star ASU guard Jahii Carson, who lit the Cougars up in a 63-59 win on Jan. 31. Coach Ken Bone said the Cougars will throw multiple looks at Carson, though they may have to tweak their approach a bit this time around — in Pullman, they gave him a considerable cushion on the perimeter and dared him to make outside shots. He responded by hitting a pair of 3s as well as some other lengthy jumpers.
That's all for now. We'll be back afterward.