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February 20, 2013
Huge road test on tap for Wazzu
WASHINGTON STATE at ARIZONA STATE: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.
Riding a season long six-game losing streak, the Cougars (11-15, 2-11) look to avenge a loss to the team that started their downward spiral when they take on the Sun Devils in Tempe tonight. Washington State has struggled on the road this season, winning just one game away from home against Oregon State. That doesn't bode well for a team that has failed to walk away victorious from Tempe since 2009.
In their last meeting, the Cougars held a slim halftime lead but the Sun Devils (19-7, 8-5) and star freshman guard Jahii Carson took control of the second half as the Cougars went cold from the field. Carson finished with a game-high 25 points and Carrick Felix recorded a double-double to lift the Sun Devils to a 63-59 victory.
Carson is averaging 17.7 points and 4.9 assists per game, torching the Pac-12 as a freshman and leading the Sun Devils to their best season since a 2009-10 NIT appearance. Though Carson will be the key man in the Sun Devils' attack, Felix, a senior forward, has come on strong this season, averaging 14.2 points and 8 rebounds per game.
For the third consecutive game the Cougars will find themselves without senior guard Mike Ladd who is still nursing a left knee injury suffered in practice prior to the Oregon homestand. He is also doubtful for Saturday's game at Arizona, however Bone is hopeful that Ladd will be able to make it back onto the court sooner rather than later after revealing that the injury is less severe than previously thought.
Prior to that injury, Ladd was averaging 11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game this season.
The Cougars have, however, played well in his absense despite the two losses. Freshman guard Bryce Leavitt, seeing his first extended minutes this season, has filled in admirably with Ladd on the bench. Though the stats may not show his impact on the game, Leavitt has consistently provided quality minutes, registering 5 points and 8 assists in 44 minutes of action.
With so precious few games left on the Pac-12 schedule, this game is critical for the Sun Devils as they find themselves on the cusp of the NCAA tournament. The Cougars, though, will attempt to play spoiler and are just fighting to get out of the Pac-12 cellar while positioning themselves for a run in the Pac-12 tournament next month.
Wednesday will mark the 73rd all-time meeting between Washington State and Arizona State with the Sun Devils holding a 37-35 advantage in the series.
WASHINGTON STATE at (12) ARIZONA: Saturday, Feb. 23, 12 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.
For the second consecutive weekend the Cougars will be looking to knock off a ranked opponent when they take on No. 12 Arizona in Tucson on Saturday afternoon. Arizona has dominated the Cougars in recent years, winning the last five contests after being swept by Washington State in Ken Bone's first season as head coach.
Arizona visited Pullman earlier this month and walked away with a rather easy 79-65 victory at Beasley Coliseum. Led by a one-two punch of Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, the Wildcats (21-4, 9-4) controlled the game from the get-go. Lyons led all scorers with 20-points in just 23 minutes of action while Hill recorded 18-points while knocking down 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Lyons is the Wildcats' leading scorer averaging 15.3 points and 3.2 assists per game. Hill and sophomore guard Nick Johnson are both averaging double-digits, scoring 13.7 and 11.8 points per game respectively.
Washington State's leading scorer Brock Motum has had a tough time scoring in recent weeks, failing to reach the 20-point plateau in 10 of his last 11 games and reaching 17-points just once in that same stretch. Teams have started to throw two and three players at Motum each and every time he touches the ball, resulting in limited opportunities at the basket, forcing Motum to give up the ball or take a tough, contested shot.
Picking up the slack during Motum's slump, though, is sophomore guard Royce Woolridge who is coming off of a career night, scoring 36-points in the overtime loss against Oregon. His 36-points were the most points scored by a Pac-12 player this season and the first time a Washington State player has eclipsed 30-points since Klay Thompson accomplished the feat by scoring 43-points against Washington in the 2011 Pac-12 tournament.
Woolridge is averaging 17 points and shooting 52.6% from the field in his last six games.
Arizona has struggled in their last three games, dropping games to California and Colorado while escaping with a victory against Utah. The Wildcats could be ripe for the picking if the Cougars can put together a complete game.
Saturday will mark the 73rd all-time meeting between Washington State and Arizona with the Wildcats holding a 56-16 advantage. The Cougars are just 8-27 in Tucson.