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Cougars try to bounce back

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Saturday night’s matchup in venerable Gill Coliseum between visiting Washington State and Oregon State will pit one team that has lost a couple inexplicable games but has two huge home wins versus another team that has … well, done pretty much the same thing.

Consistent isn’t a term bandied around either the OSU or Cougar basketball programs right now.

“You can’t avoid (ups and downs),” said WSU junior wing Marcus Capers on Friday, as the Cougars prepared for the second game of the weekend’s trip to Oregon.

The trip started with a resounding thud of a 69-43 loss in Eugene on Thursday, as the Cougars had their worst shooting night of the season, making barely more than one of each four shots.

“The only team that’s avoided it is Ohio State,” Capers added. “They’re undefeated.”

WSU is 15-7 overall and 5-5 in Pac-10 play, but had been on somewhat of a roll going into Thursday’s game. The Cougars had won five out of seven and had been, “for the most part, playing really hard the last four games,” according to coach Ken Bone.

But Thursday was different.

“Their energy was just more than ours,” Capers said of the Ducks, who led 9-2 four minutes in and never let the Cougars get going. “We came out a little flat and we just played catch-up the rest of the game, and we didn’t catch up.”

The loss to the Ducks, whose RPI even after the win is just 142 (of 345), according to, dropped the Cougars from 57 to 74 in the RPI and put a crimp in their postseason plans.

Plans that received a boost just days before with a big home win over Washington.

“Most coaches would prefer to have a team that plays consistent, where you know what you’re going to get most nights out,” Bone said. “But I think the more freedom you give your teams, the more ups and downs you’ll have.”

Which brings some plusses and minuses.

“We’ll play games where we’ll beat teams that we wouldn’t have if we had played a certain style every game, every night,” Bone said. “And there are potentially games you can lose because of the same philosophy.”

That certainly describes the Beavers (9-12, 4-6). On the downside, OSU has lost at home to Texas Southern, Utah Valley and George Washington (none with an RPI higher than 199). And, just a little more than a week ago, coach Craig Robinson questioned their effort in an 85-57 loss at California.

But OSU is the only team in the conference that has defeated Pac-10-leading Arizona and second-place Washington this season. Thursday, the Beavers handed UW a 68-56 defeat after losing to the Huskies 103-72 earlier this season.

Whatever OSU team shows up this evening, Bone thinks he knows which Washington State team will.

“More often than not, we show up and play pretty hard,” Bone said. “But (Thursday) night was one of those nights where we hard poor energy. And it’s hard to be consistently good if all of a sudden you have poor energy some night.

“I would be shocked if we don’t come out and play with great energy (tonight). We had a lapse (Thursday), I think the guys understand it, and (today) will be a sign of maturity and character. Or, lack of.”