Are the Cougars getting better? Undeniably, the answer is yes. But are they good enough yet to defeat the best of the Pac-10? Again, the answer is yes. It just hasn't happened yet. They came as close as they possibly could Thursday night before falling, 61-59, to 13th-rated UCLA. Let's see how others saw the game, how everyone else did in the Pac-10 and what WSU has to do to bounce back against USC. Read on.
• So you can have something to read while drinking your morning Starbucks – I read a Forbes magazine report this morning that lists the coffee giant as one of the companies that is in danger of bankruptcy and shuttering stores in 2009 – we'll start with the WSU links. First up is John Blanchette's column, which details where the Cougars are and where they are headed. If you want to read my report once again, you can find it here. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick's piece appeared in the News Tribune and other Puget Sound-area papers, while the Times had the Associated Press story. ... The LA Times story from David Wharton focused on Darren Collison's play, as did Brian Dohn's piece in the Daily News. The OC Register story takes the same tack.
• Around the Pac-10, the Huskies and the Bruins will play Saturday with first place in the conference on the line as we near the halfway point. That's the case because UW edged the short-handed Trojans last night, winning after retiring Bandon Roy's jersey. ... The showdown in Seattle is for undisputed first because Oregon State went into Berkeley and upset the Bears, exciting the Beaver faithful. ... Stanford rounded out the night by routing hapless Oregon. ... The Oregonian has a good Pac-10 roundup.
• USC lost in part because leading scorer Dwight Lewis didn't play with an ankle sprain. Any odds on whether he'll be back Saturday? Someone asked Taylor Rochestie (nine points, six assists, three rebounds and two turnovers on an off-shooting night – 3 of 9 – against UCLA) last night how the team could bounce back after such a tough loss and his answer was brilliant in its sense of history. "I think we have some experience of losing to UCLA and having to come back and play USC," said Rochestie, who didn't note WSU has defeated the Trojans five consecutive times in Pullman. "It's happened the last couple years. It's not something we're proud of but it's something we've dealt with." Rochestie, undeniably the leader of this team, then explained that every Pac-10 game is big for this team and "we know we're going to have to come with that effort against USC to have a chance to win. ... We just want to get back on that court and prove that we belong and prove that we can win a game and prove that we can put 40 minutes together."
We will leave you with this. Dick Bennett spoke last night at an awards banquet in Wisconsin. Before he did, he talked with the Appleton Post-Crescent about his son Tony and his tenure at Washington State. Interesting reading and puts into context once again the younger Bennett is motivated by different things than most college basketball coaches.
• Well, that's it for this morning. We'll be back later with an unedited version of our Saturday story along with any other notes and quotes we find. Till then ...