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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Cougars face another test on a crowded Saturday after acing Thursday’s exam in Tucson

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Not all weekends can be ones that include plopping down on the couch and ingesting sports on TV hour after hour. They should, but not all are. Life isn’t fair.


• Why is that important? We’re in one of those weekends that don’t allow that today. Not that we are heartbroken missing the golf – c’mon, rich guys, get your act together and bury the feud that’s ruining the pro game – or much of anything else. It’s the principle of the thing. Bad habits, including not being lazy, are hard to break.

Yes, our Saturday is crowded today. And tomorrow will be even worse. We’re not sure we will be writing tomorrow as we have to be somewhere at 8 a.m. But no matter what, we will be in front of the giant LG at 5 p.m. this evening. There is no way we can miss Washington State’s game-after-the-game matchup at Arizona State (5 p.m., ESPN2).

Jon Wilner called it the trappiest of trap games earlier this week, no matter what happened in Tucson on Thursday night. That the 21st-ranked Cougars rallied, won and moved into first place in the Pac-12 – the subject of this Washington Post story that is on the S-R website today – assured him of precognition. It is a trap game, if you define such as being as important as the preceding one without the pregame hype. The Cougars head into today holding the season’s outcome in their hands. Win out and the Pac-12 title, the final Pac-12 title as we know it, is theirs. After having never won a Pac-12 title in hoops. Or a Pac-10 one. Or … well you get the picture.

That’s a lot of pressure. If 18-to-24-years-olds care about what happened during their great-grandparents’ lifetime. Suffice to say we don’t think that’s important. All that’s important to the guys in the WSU locker room is winning tonight. Doesn’t matter who is in front of them, Arizona State or UCLA, USC or Washington. The Sun Devils are athletic. Have found ways to lose. Found ways to rally from big deficits and win. Rally and lose. Heck, they are 13-14 overall, 7-9 in conference – after starting 4-0 – and are coached by a guy, Bobby Hurley, who has a propensity to get riled up – to be kind.

The crowd in Tempe probably won’t be large but it will be wild. Always is.

Make sure you watch. You don’t want to miss another chapter is a story that will be a Hollywood movie someday.


WSU: Greg Woods is on what was our favorite road trip back in the day. Fly south on Wednesday, spend Thursday in Tucson, drive up Interstate 10, a Friday in Phoenix, Saturday at the game and then back to the homestead. Usually the weather in Spokane was markedly better when we got back than when we left. Not this time. But that’s his problem. Our problem is getting through all the Wazzu stories today. There is Greg’s preview of the game. And his look at how the Cougs’ NCAA fortunes changed after the Thursday upset. Kyle Smith’s national Coach of the Year outlook. And more. … Yep, Greg has a football story. On the newest assistant coach. … The women played last night in Pullman. Faced No. 9 Oregon State. And once again came up short, losing 65-52. … The baseball team fared better, defeating No. 24 Kentucky 6-4 in a Texas tournament. We pass along a roundup. … John Canzano talked with Kyle Smith yesterday. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, a Tennessee judge ruled against the NCAA on Friday, telling the organization it can’t enforce its NIL rules concerning recruitment. It was a tough day for president Charlie Baker. … Jon Wilner has a mailbag in the Mercury News. … The women dominated the Pac-12 courts Friday, with visiting Arizona upsetting third-ranked Stanford 68-61, which played without star Cameron Brink. … Though Oregon lost at Washington 74-66, and fell into last place, the Ducks did get some good news Friday. … No. 11 Colorado lost again, this time at No. 7 USC as JuJu Watkins scored 42 points. … California got past Arizona State. … On the men’s side, Washington will try to sweep the weekend when it plays at surely-angry, fourth-ranked Arizona today. … If Colorado wants to start a surge, it has to begin against Utah. … Can USC rebound against UCLA?  

Gonzaga: The last time the Zags faced Santa Clara, they gave up the final seven points and fell 77-76. That was weeks ago, though the loss portended many tough WCC games. Now, on a roll, the Bulldogs host the Broncos with a chance to avenge the loss. Theo Lawson has a preview of tonight’s (7, ESPN2) chance to say goodbye to the seniors with a win. … He also has his key matchup. … Jim Meehan takes one last look back at Thursday’s win at Portland. … The 16th-ranked women are on the road again, facing last-place Pepperdine in Southern California.  

EWU: Though the Eagle men face another key road game today, at second-place Northern Colorado, the stories we can pass along today have other subjects. Dave Cook has this feature on Eastern’s first NCAA men’s team from two decades ago. … John Blanchette covers Friday’s action in the Big Sky indoor track championship at the Podium.

Whitworth: The Pirate men accomplished the first step in their two-step weekend dance, one they hope will get them to the NCAA Division III’s big dance. They defeated visiting Puget Sound 80-59 last night. Tonight, they host Whitman with the NCAA berth on the line. Whitworth won both regular season meeting with the Blues, handing them a third of their six losses.

Preps: The regional part of the State basketball tournament continued Friday night with games near and far. Dave Nichols has this roundup of the games, which included eighth-seeded North Central defeating the 3A top-seeded Auburn boys on their home court. … The State 3A/2A gymnastics meet was held Friday in Bellevue and Mead took second place. Terry Wood has the story.

Chiefs: Every game is big these days for Spokane, so last night’s 5-2 win over visiting Regina was a big one. Dave was in the Arena and has this story.

Seahawks: The salary cap has been determined. There is more money available. How does that impact the Hawks? … We have more on Leonard Williams’ status to pass along. … The coaching staff is skipping the Combine.

Mariners: This is not good news. One of the M’s trio of late-inning fireballers is not throwing. Matt Brash was shut down due to being “a little banged up.” … Julio Rodriguez is the M’s best player. And he knows it. Threw his weight around recently. Good for him.

Kraken: Matty Beniers’ number will get better. But will it happen fast enough to help Seattle make the playoffs?

Sounders: Seattle opens the MLS season today at LAFC. One thing will define their success. Scoring goals. That’s the thrust of the Seattle Times preview story in the S-R. … For more on the year ahead, we have these Times stories to pass along.

Storm: Yesterday was a day of roster moves.


• As we said, don’t count on us being here tomorrow. We need the day. Though, if we wake up early, as in about 4 a.m., you never know. We will be back Monday for sure. Until later …