Downing The Ducks

Washington State has already beaten Oregon twice this season, and Thursday will face the rising Ducks a third time in a dangerous venue - the Pac-10 tournament.

Oregon (18-12, 9-9) is the defending tournament champion and has had a lot of success in this event in the past decade.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Washington State –3.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington State -3.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Coach Tony Bennett of No. 21 Washington State (23-7, 11-7) is wary of the Ducks, who have won three consecutive games to place themselves back in contention for an NCAA bid even if they don't win the league tournament.

"They are playing at a high level," Bennett said Tuesday. "The way they played last year in the tournament, it's going to be a heck of a game."

It seems like it often is when these two teams play.

The Ducks are 12-7 all-time in Pac-10 tournament games, and won the event in 2003 and last year. Coach Ernie Kent has the best winning percentage in Pac-10 tournament history, .769, and Oregon has advanced to the semifinals its past five appearances.

Kent figures a .500 record in Pac-10 play should be enough to get an NCAA at-large bid.

Oregon has played better defense and is shooting the ball better in the recent wins.

"There's a lot more intensity than all year long," Kent said.

Oregon and Washington State have met twice in the Pac-10 tournament. The Ducks won in a 2006 opening round game. Washington State won in 1989.

The Cougars swept the Ducks this season to end Oregon's record 13-game winning streak in the series. WSU won 69-60 in Pullman and 62-53 in Eugene. Derrick Low averaged 21.5 points in the two games for the Cougars.

Oregon's Maarty Leunen averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds against the Cougars.

Winning the Pac-10 tournament would likely do wonders for WSU's seeding when tournament bids are announced on Sunday. But, short of that, Bennett wasn't sure it mattered much if the Cougars were a six or even seven seed.

"There is no much parity now ... I'm not sure how much variance there is in the caliber of the opponent," Bennett said.

More important is making sure your team plays well in tournament games, he said.

Bennett said Daven Harmeling is recovering from a sprained ankle that limited his play to four minutes in last Saturday's double overtime win against Washington.

"He's much better," Bennett said.

That's good news because WSU isn't very deep, and played four starters more than 40 minutes and one for 38 minutes on Saturday.

"He's not 100 percent but close to it," Bennett said.

Despite finishing third in a tough league, the Cougars didn't place anyone on the All-Pac-10 first team this week. Kyle Weaver was named to the second team, and Low to the third team. In addition, Aron Baynes was honorable mention all-Pac-10, and Robbie Cowgill was an honorable mention pick on the league's all-defense team.

Bennett said that was not surprising, given his team's lack of a superstar.

"Our strengths are not in individual awards," Bennett said. "The joy with our players comes as they succeed as a team."

The Cougars lead the Pac-10 in defense, but not much else. They are really a triumph of balance.

Low is the leading scorer at 13 ppg, followed by Weaver (11 ppg), Baynes and Taylor Rochestie (10 ppg) and Cowgill (7 ppg). Baynes is the leading rebounder at 5.9 per game.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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