March 9, 2011 in Sports

UW vs. WSU: One more time

By Correspondent
Ted Warren photo

Washington State’s Marcus Capers, left, tangles with Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning in the last meeting between the two teams. The Cougars and Huskies face off again Thursday in the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – Marcus Capers admits to hating heights, but he loves rollercoasters.

The Incredible Hulk at Universal Studios in Orlando tops his list.

But nothing has given him the ride of this Washington State basketball season.

“Ya, it’s had its ups and downs,” Capers said Wednesday after the Cougars’ final pre-Pac-10 Conference tournament workout, a practice delayed because WSU was stuck in Pullman an extra day due to snow and a canceled Tuesday flight.

“I feel we could have done better, but one thing we were constantly struggling (with) was our consistency,” said Capers, a junior whose role has been anything but consistent this year, swinging back-and-forth from wing to point depending on Reggie Moore’s health. “When you don’t have consistency, your team is going to be a rollercoaster during the season.”

For WSU, there was a long upswing out of the gate, with a non-conference slate that ended 10-2 and included wins over Gonzaga and Baylor, both ranked at the time.

There was a 0-2 tumble to open conference, then a long stretch of quick ups and downs, with no more than a couple wins or losses in a row.

Sprinkled in were dips supplied by Moore’s marijuana citation, followed a few weeks later by a similar incident involving leading scorer Klay Thompson. Add in Moore’s ankle sprain that kept him out of the regular-season finale vs. UCLA – he’s expected to play after practicing Wednesday – and the season was theme park worthy.

It added up to 9-9 in the Pac-10, 19-11 overall.

But if there were two pinnacles, they came against the University of Washington, Thursday night’s tournament-opening opponent.

WSU won the first meeting 87-80 in Pullman and added an 80-69 rout four weeks later in Seattle.

Though those were different UW teams.

The Huskies, clinging to the NCAA tournament bubble with a 20-10 overall record after an 11-7 Pac-10 season that included losses in three of their final five game, will be without reserve guard – and defensive pest – Venoy Overton tonight.

The senior was suspended by UW Tuesday after being charged with a gross misdemeanor for allegedly supplying alcohol to a minor.

“It’s been a rough season,” junior Isaiah Thomas told reporters Tuesday, sounding like a Cougar. “It’s been up and down. But we’re not going to give up.”

Overton’s absence will be felt.

“We’re able to attack more,” Capers said. “They’ll probably have to slow down, Isaiah is the only point guard they’ll have. (Overton) gave Isaiah a little bit of a break but when both of them were in the game, their fastbreak was fast.”

The Huskies already were missing starting point guard Abdul Gaddy, out since early in the season with a knee injury. And 6-foot-6 senior wing Justin Holiday’s status is still to-be-determined after suffering a concussion.

“We’re assuming he’ll be playing,” WSU coach Ken Bone said of Holiday.

But if he doesn’t, WSU shouldn’t relax. The Cougars were derailed by a last-place Arizona State team that was without two of its top three players, then almost took a bite out of UCLA last Saturday despite Moore and Thompson’s absence.

“I would hope so, I believe so, but I honestly have to say only time will tell,” Bone answered when asked if the Cougars had learned their lesson not to take anyone for granted.

“ASU came out trying to prove a point, Capers said, “which they did. We just have to know what we have to do, how big this tournament is. Hopefully we understand that.”

Not unless the Cougars want their tournament to end in a free fall.

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