Cougs look for complete game against UW

CAPERS vs. WROTEN

PULLMAN – Washington State played sensational defense to limit Arizona State to a measly eight points in the first half Saturday, but the Cougars have no illusions about holding the Huskies to single digits in a half this Saturday.

In fact, the Cougars would be doing well if they can just hold Terrence Ross to single digits in a half.

The Cougars did just that in the opening half of their first meeting with Washington on Jan. 15 in Seattle. WSU led 31-25 at the break after limiting Ross to four points, but the sophomore guard exploded for 26 points in the second half to help Washington erase a 10-point deficit and win, 75-65.

"He's difficult to stop once he gets going," teammate Abdul Gaddy understated.

Ross, projected as a first round draft pick, has made a habit of filling up the basket after halftime following slow starts. However, he scored 15 of his 25 points in the first half Saturday in a 79-70 win over Arizona.

WSU and Washington have split their last four meetings. The Huskies have won two straight (including an 89-87 thriller at the 2011 Pac-10 tournament) since losing last year in Pullman.

"They don't want to go back to Seattle losing. We don't want to show our faces (after a) loss in our house. I feel like it's going to be a good one," WSU guard Marcus Capers said.

The win against Arizona enabled the Huskies (19-8, 12-3 Pac-12) to stay in a first-place tie with California with three games left in league play before the Pac-12 tournament March 7-10 in Los Angeles.

The Cougars (14-13, 6-9) are in eighth place in the tightly packed standings. WSU must beat Washington in Saturday's home finale (5 p.m., ROOT Sports) and then knock off UCLA (15-12, 8-6) and USC (6-21, 1-13) on the road next week to match last year's 9-9 conference record.

The Huskies appear certain to finish in the top four in the Pac-12, which would give them a first-day bye in the conference tournament. The Cougars are one of eight teams that would have to win a record four games in four days to win the tournament and claim the league's automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.

"We beat the top team, California," Capers said. "Hopefully, we have a nice win against U-Dub. If we go into the (Pac-12) tournament with a chip on our shoulder, I feel like the tournament could be ours."

The Cougars, who advanced to the NIT Final Four last season, are trying to advance to the post-season for a school-record fifth time in six years. The Cougars turned down an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational in 2010.

WSU also has a chance to post a sixth straight winning season. That would tie the third-longest string in school history (1990-91 to 1995-96). The Cougars had eight-year strings end in 1943 and 1952.

Saturday is Senior Day at Beasley Coliseum. Three-year starters Abe Lodwick and Capers will be honored along with reserve post Charlie Enquist and injured guard Faisal Aden.

The Cougars, who have struggled at the gate in Pullman this season, seem certain to draw more fans for Washington than the season-high Beasley crowd of 5,218 that whooped it up at the Arizona State game. Most fans wore gray on "Gray Out" day, and the Cougars almost registered a shut out in the first half.

"A shout-out to the crowd with the ‘Gray Out,'" Capers said. "They were really into the game. I feel like that upped our ante."

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