Impressive Start

Washington State is one of only five unbeaten programs in the country, and coach Tony Bennett knows his team must play at its highest level if it expects to come out of its trip to Los Angeles still undefeated.

The fourth-ranked Cougars look to continue their impressive start and open with 14 wins for the first time in 91 years as they visit Southern California and highly touted freshman O.J. Mayo on Thursday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made USC -1 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington State +1 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

After cruising through a mediocre non-conference schedule and defeating instate rival Washington 56-52 in its Pac-10 opener on Saturday, Washington State's (13-0, 1-0) schedule is getting considerably tougher.

The Cougars must avoid looking past the Trojans, who will likely be highly motivated after dropping out of the Top 25, to Saturday's game against No. 5 UCLA - the sixth game in Pac-10 history featuring two teams in the Top 5.

"We have to play excellent basketball even to be in games like this on the road," Bennett said.

Washington State has been winning with its suffocating defense, allowing a mere 49.8 points per game - the fewest in the nation. The Cougars also lead the Pac-10 in field goal defense (36.9 percent).

There hasn't been a team to hold opponents under 50.0 points per game since the 1992 Princeton squad yielded an average of 48.2 points.

"We need to play our defense every game," junior center Aron Baynes said. "If we don't, we can get beaten by every team we play. But if we do, we can beat every team that we play."

Baynes scored a team-high 16 points on Saturday, and scored a career-high 25 points on 10-of-10 shooting in Washington State's 88-86 double-overtime win over USC on March 3.

Senior Derrick Low leads the Cougars in scoring (12.9 ppg), and averaged 14.0 points in three games against the Trojans last season.

Washington State swept the season series over USC last season, before losing to the Trojans 70-61 in the conference tournament. The Cougars have won three of their last four games at USC after losing seven straight there.

Washington State has won all five of its road games, and improved to 13-0 for the first time since the 1935-36 season with last Saturday's win. The Cougars have not opened a season with 14 straight wins since the 1916-17 team started 15-0.

USC (9-5, 0-2) has opened conference play with back-to-back losses for the first time since dropping its first five Pac-10 games in 2004-05.

After losing at California 92-82 in their Pac-10 opener last Thursday, the Trojans fell at then-No. 24 Stanford 52-46 on Saturday. The consecutive losses dropped USC from No. 22 to out of the Top 25.

Mayo is second in the Pac-10 in scoring (20.1 ppg), but had a disappointing performance his last time out. Mayo had 14 points on a season-low 5-of-19 shooting against the Cardinal after scoring a season-best 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting against the Golden Bears.

"Some nights will be like this where the paint is pretty clogged up,'' said Mayo, who also needed three stitches to close a cut over his right eye after Saturday's loss. "They did a good job of protecting the lane and outside shots aren't falling like we would like. Some nights will be like that.''

The Trojans have lost three straight games to Top 25 teams - including four-point losses to then-No. 4 Kansas and No. 2 Memphis - since beating then-No. 19 Southern Illinois 70-45 on Nov. 25.

USC is 3-2 against ranked opponents at the Galen Center since it opened last season.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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