Defense Wins

Behind one of the top defenses in the nation, Washington State has bounced back from a disappointing start to the month to keep its slim Pac-10 title hopes alive. Its normally stingy defense was absent the last time it faced Arizona, however.

The 17th-ranked Cougars look to win their fifth straight game and avenge an earlier loss to the Wildcats when the teams meet Saturday at Friel Court.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Washington State –6.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington State -6.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Washington State (21-5, 9-5) is coming off one of its best defensive efforts in league play, as it defeated Arizona State 59-47 on Thursday. The Cougars, who have the second-ranked scoring defense in the nation (55.2 points per game), held the Sun Devils to 33.3 percent from the field - 6-of-25 from 3-point range.

"We will win this game without a doubt with our defense. ... You are going to have to make stops and make it harder for them," Washington State coach Tony Bennett said.

The Cougars have won four in a row following a season-high three-game losing streak, and are in third place in the Pac-10, 2 1/2 games back of first-place UCLA.

Washington State is allowing an average of 51.8 points on 39.2 percent shooting during its winning streak after giving up an average of 67.7 points on 48.1 percent shooting during its slide.

The Cougars' normally solid defense was unimpressive in a 76-64 loss to Arizona (16-10, 6-7) on Jan. 24. It was the second-most points allowed all season by Washington State, which trailed by as many as 19 points as it let the Wildcats shoot 55.0 percent from the floor and make 12 of 21 3-pointers.

"We're ready. ... That's one good thing about the conference, you get everybody twice," Washington State senior Kyle Weaver said. "I think we learned a lot from the first game."

Cougars leading scorer Derrick Low, averaging 13.8 points, had just five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the loss to the Wildcats. Low is averaging 8.2 points on 25.0 percent shooting in his last five games against them.

Arizona freshman Jerryd Bayless had 23 points against the Cougars last month, while Chase Budinger added 22 and made 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

"We've got a few things to go back and work on, but we don't want to get swept by any team in the Pac-10," Cougars senior Aron Baynes said. "We're going to try and come out with some aggression."

Bayless is second in the league in scoring, averaging 21.2 points, and has been tough to stop lately.

He became the first Arizona player to score 30 or more points in three consecutive games before being held to 22 on 6-of-19 shooting in Thursday's 75-66 loss to Washington. Bayless had very few open looks, as the Huskies continuously rotated people on him.

"This is probably the first time we've seen this pressure," Bayless said. "I'm pretty sure teams are going to start following their lead."

The Wildcats have dropped four of five after winning four in a row, and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament after 23 consecutive appearances - currently the nation's second-longest streak behind North Carolina's 27.

"It is tough, but I've got news for everybody: It's been tough since we started Nov. 4," coach Kevin O'Neill said.

Arizona has won 42 of the last 45 meetings, but the Cougars' 77-73 overtime win at Friel Court last season snapped their 20-game home losing streak to the Wildcats.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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