Cougs, Huskies almost ready in Vegas


FROM LAS VEGAS — Utah leads USC by 13 points with about eight minutes left as I'm writing this, so it won't be long until WSU and Washington get going in the 8:30 game. Of course, those 8:30 games have a way of turning into 8:45 games. Let's hope this isn't one of them. Keep reading for more thoughts on the game.

Some of you have asked how this year's venue at the MGM Grand Garden Arena compares to the Staples Center. The short answer: it's a lot better, even if the crowd still isn't all that great (attendance was announced as 7,451 for the Colorado-Oregon State game). But the arena is much smaller — capacity is just north of 13,000, compared to the 18-19,000 range you get in Staples — and has a more intimate feel to it. At Staples, it often felt as if the basketball game was a sideshow. That's how cavernous that place is. Here, there are still quite a few empty seats, but everything is so much closer to the floor that you still get a pretty fun environment, especially with the students able to sit so close. … As for tonight's game, it's hard to know what to expect anymore. The fact that UW won the first two meetings doesn't feel as if it has much to do with who will win this one, especially given the way WSU played last week. But I don't think it mattered a whole lot to begin with, since each of those games were close and the Cougars had a reasonable chance to win both. … Lorenzo Romar has gone out of his way this week to praise the recent play of Brock Motum, whom Romar says is playing as if he is "on a mission." It's not hard to understand why. Motum wanted nothing more than to play in the NCAA tournament this season, and that's a goal he can only achieve if the Cougars do the unthinkable and win four games in four days here this weekend. So there's an interesting clash of endeavors on deck tonight — Motum and his will to extend WSU's season (and his career), and UW and its well-documented intent to stop him before he gets going. In Seattle, you saw Motum score five quick points against Shawn Kemp before Romar called for Desmond Simmons to check in and guard the 6-foot-10 Australian. Motum scored 13 points the rest of the way and had a harder time getting the ball in scoring position. Romar has said he won't alter his starting lineup — meaning Kemp still gets the nod — but that could change quickly if Motum starts hot again. That's the last thing the Huskies want. … Another note to keep in mind: the Cougars were still without Mike Ladd when they lost to UW on March 3. He's back now, which takes a lot of pressure off Royce Woolridge and allows him to play more off the ball where he's most comfortable.

That's all for now. Tipoff awaits. We'll be later than usual with postgame fare due to the late start.

Christian Caple can be reached at Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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