Washington State’s recent problems tied to defensive dip

PULLMAN – Going into the Stanford contest two weeks ago, Washington State was 16-7, a record built, more than anything, on a stingy defense.

WSU’s opponents were shooting 38.1 percent (best in the Pac-10), just 30.8 behind the arc.

With those statistics in their pocket, the Cougars were hoping to build an NCAA tournament at-large résumé. Then came three losses in four games, destroying any chance of a free pass into March Madness.

The common denominator in defeats to the Cardinal, Arizona and Arizona State? The WSU defense has let down.

Stanford, then and now near the bottom of the Pac-10 shooting statistics, hit half its 50 shots, only the fourth time a WSU rival had accomplished that all season (all defeats). The Cardinal shredded the Cougars’ defense in the first half, shooting 62.1 percent.

Then, after holding California to 41 percent shooting in a 75-71 win, WSU allowed Arizona (48.1 percent) and Arizona State (51.1) to hit nearly half their attempts in last week’s two deflating losses.

Going into Sunday night’s nationally televised rivalry game at Washington, the Cougars still lead the Pac-10 in shooting percentage defense. But the number is 39.4 and rising.

The Huskies shot just 37.1 percent in their 87-80 January loss in Beasley, with starters Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning combining to miss 25 of their 33 shots.

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