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WCC awards just around the corner

It’s the last chance for awards candidates to impress the voters.

Coaches’ ballots for West Coast Conference awards are due by Saturday night – an hour after the final game, roughly 11 p.m. Winners will be announced Monday.

Gonzaga’s Matt Bouldin and Santa Clara’s John Bryant are considered the leading candidates for player of the year. Their teams meet tonight at the Leavey Center.

In WCC games, Bouldin is ninth in scoring (14.8), seventh in field-goal percentage (53.3), third in assists (3.9), third in 3-point percentage (49) and first by a wide margin in assists-to-turnover ratio (2.6). Bryant is first in rebounding (15.0), field-goal percentage (62.9) and blocked shots (2.4), and second in scoring (17.8).

Bryant also leads the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating. He said there’s a Web site that tracks possessions, field-goal and free-throw percentages and other variables.

“At the very least, if he’s not the player of the year, he’s far and away the defensive player of the year,” Keating said.

Santa Clara freshman Kevin Foster is a candidate for newcomer of the year. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 3.2 assists. Foster broke Kurt Rambis’ 32-year-old school record for single-season scoring by a freshman.

Portland’s T.J. Campbell is also a strong candidate.

Cold Valentine

After leading the Big Sky Conference in scoring throughout much of the year, Eastern Washington University’s Benny Valentine has slipped to third behind Montana’s Anthony Johnson and Sacramento State’s Loren Leath on the list of the league’s top scorers.

Valentine, who has failed to reach double figures in three of Eastern’s last seven games, is averaging 15.4 points per contest. The 5-foot-6 junior point guard made only 1 of 6 field-goal attempts in Tuesday night’s 63-59 non-conference overtime loss to Seattle and finished with just eight points – matching his third-lowest output.

Johnson leads the Big Sky with an average of 17.5 points per game, followed by Leath at 16.0.

Home wins rare

The Cougars are 4-4 on the road in the Pac-10, but just 2-5 at home.

Washington State coach Tony Bennett can’t put a finger on the reason, but he knows this week is another chance to turn the corner.

“We’ve played well at home, in stretches, we just haven’t been able to finish,” Bennett said. “It seems on the road we’ve had a few more times when (our three leading scorers) have all been on track.”

Of the Cougars’ five Pac-10 home losses, three have been by two points and one by seven. Only against Washington, a 68-48 Huskies win, was the game decided before the final minutes.

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