Anyone still awake? WSU, USC tipping soon

COUGARS

FROM LOS ANGELES — We've arrived at the Galen Center, one of the finest basketball facilities in the Pac-12. It's also usually one of the emptiest. We'll see how tonight's 8:30 p.m. tip affects that. We have other thoughts, so read on.


My favorite part of this arena is the windows located behind one of the baskets. Especially when the black curtains are open to reveal a pretty stunning view of the Los Angeles skyline. Those curtains are open at the moment, though I'm not sure that they will be once the game starts. … Consider this a lame segway into the thought that WSU's hopes of a meaningful season might be curtains if they don't win here tonight. The Trojans are a 5-point favorite tonight according to VegasInsider.com, and that sounds about right. But this still feels like WSU's most winnable remaining road game. Still,  USC has been playing much looser since the firing of coach Kevin O'Neill. That was a stated goal of interim coach Bob Cantu, who has this team playing as hard as any USC squad in recent memory. Sure, the Trojans are just 2-3 under Cantu so far, but those three losses included a 2-point defeat against Oregon and a 5-point overtime loss to Arizona State, a game in which the Trojans scored 93 points and made 15 3-pointers. And while that's not exactly an accurate reflection of how the Trojans play, they certainly don't run the pack-it-in, slow-down style of years past, when injuries and defections and such necessitated a low-octane approach. As WSU point guard Mike Ladd said this week, “they run and they gun.” Transition defense will be huge for WSU tonight. The Cougars play at a pace slower than most every team in the conference, and that pace is going to be key to WSU winning this game. If it can play at its own pace, keep this game in the 60s, take care of the ball and prevent turnovers from fueling the Trojans' transition game, they have a good chance to win. If not, they could be staring at 11-12 and 2-8.

We'll be back afterward, though it may be later than usual due to the tight deadlines tonight.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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