WSU Cougars Basketball: Win over UW Would Give Improved Cougs Momentum

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIFebruary 21, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10:  Terrence Ross #31 of the Washington Huskies drives on Brock Motum #12 of the Washington State Cougars in the first half in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

If you put the Cougar basketball team through one of those TSA scanners, you might be able to see amid all of their flaws that they have made some progress this season.

The Cougars might be 6-9 in the Pac-12, but they have played .500 ball since the last time they played Washington. Had they not pulled their usual act and blown home games against UCLA and Arizona, they could be sitting at 8-7 in conference, a couple of spots up in the standings.

As it is, they have played pretty well in five of their last six games, the late losses to the Bruins and Wildcats notwithstanding.

They have won only three of them, including a dominant 72-50 win over a lackluster ASU team Saturday, but they have been in every game. They led UCLA at halftime, as they so often do at home, yet lost for the 19th straight time to the Bruins in Pullman.

After finishing off a sweep of Oregon State with a mildly surprising win in Corvallis, the Cougars succumbed to yet another hot-shooting Oregon club in a well-played game in Eugene.

Despite losing Klay Thompson to the NBA and Faisal Aden to injury, the Cougars are still No. 2 in the league in shooting percentage. Thank Brock Motum, the league's surprise No. 2 scorer at 17.8 ppg. Of course, Motum cost the Cougs a chance to beat Arizona when he missed four out of five foul shots at the end of what turned out to be a four-point loss.

The Cougars head into Saturday's Apple Basket II with some confidence after having beaten ASU so soundly and having played well at home for most of the season.

The Huskies are red-hot, having won eight of the last nine, and the Cougars are unlikely to knock them off, even at home. The Huskies won by 10 the first time, and they are playing much better now.

But if the Cougs can somehow hold home court and knock off UW, it would give them some great momentum heading into a two-week stint in Los Angeles.

The Cougars are 1-6 in conference road games, but they can probably steal at least one against USC and UCLA. That actually will be a nice setup trip for the Pac-12 tournament the next week. If the Cougs can play well at USC and UCLA, they will have some confidence heading into a probable first-round matchup against Oregon State on March 7.

A win would put the Cougs up against Cal or Washington in the second round, and if they could somehow pull off that upset, they would have an even-money chance the rest of the way.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to win four games in four days—unless you’re a talented, streaking team like UConn, which did it last year during its NCAA title run. The Cougars just don't have the horses to win four straight (one stat site puts WSU's chance of doing that at 1.5 percent).

But if they finish as well as they have played for most of this month, they will at least give it a good shot.

Can freshman DaVonte Lacy help lead the way to a strong finish?